Oh, the pain of being a plus-size Kenyan inside a matatu!
Majority of Kenyans regardless of their age, size, or ethnic background, depend on matatus for movement from one point to another.
In the absence of a personal vehicle, the options often narrow down to either boarding a public service vehicle (PSV) or utilizing ride-sharing services like Uber. The PSV vehicles themselves hold a central place in the daily lives of many.
During peak hours, particularly in the morning and evening, passengers frequently crowd in PSVs.
Often, the size and design of PSV seats don’t adequately accommodate plus-size individuals. So when people with ‘larger body sizes’ board PSVs, they face distinct challenges.
The seats and layout of matatus simply don’t cater to their physical needs. And it’s not just the discomfort; it’s the extra challenges too.
They are subjected to the harsh reality of enduring consistent and hurtful insults that cut deep, all because of their physical appearance.
These insensitive comments, frequently coming from touts, capitalize on opportunities to remind them of their weight, leaving scars that go beyond mere words.
Mercy Njeri* (not her real name), is a plus-size woman who lives in Nairobi. She has had the misfortune of experiencing the challenges of a being plus-size.
She recounted to Nairobi News the constant negativity she encounters and how people wrongly assume her size is all about overeating.
“What’s even more disheartening is that even those close to her unknowingly contribute by asking intrusive questions and giving unsolicited advice,” Njeri told Nairobi News.
To avoid this emotional turmoil, Mercy prefers to hail a cab whenever she is in a position to.
Angeline Anyango, another resident of Nairobi, also shared her struggles as a plus-size woman.
She spoke about the embarrassment of having someone seated next to her in a matatu shifting uncomfortably to accommodate her.
But that is nothing compared to the weight-related jokes that are often directed at her.
“There have been numerous occasions when I’ve had to wait inside an empty vehicle, as arriving last attracts unsettling stares. It’s disheartening that the majority don’t bother to know our names; they simply label us as ‘the fat woman,” she said.
Every human being deserves respect and dignity, no matter their appearance. Sadly, these basic rights are often denied to individuals with larger body sizes.
The indignities they face while using PSVs reveal a deeply rooted societal problem that urgently needs attention, understanding, and a collective effort to bring about change.