My Unspoken – Premiere review

In many cultures across the world, problems concerning matters of the heart, family disputes and habits were discussed behind closed doors and mostly by elders.

This was not entirely to hide things (hiding did happen) but to ensure that the reputation and the feelings of all the parties involved were prudently looked after and to also tap into the wisdom of the elders.

Times are changing. It is now the norm in certain quarters to talk about these matters publicly and with no regard to age. Whether this new way of doing things is good or bad only time will tell.

With that background I want to talk about My Unspoken which aired last night on NTV at 10pm.

Image courtesy of Google

Its promo was quite eye-catching and it fueled my curiosity to watch.

For those who did not watch it is a counseling session where a group of women are helped by a counselor/life-coach to confront the demons of their past and live life anew.

It is normally run under the Alabastron programme and this was its premiere on TV.

Totally get the media sense for NTV to air the show. Women crying, opening up about their ordeals, being guided through how to make things better does make for great television which means audience numbers go up. This boosts ratings and by extension advertisers.

Ponder about the confidentiality aspect though. A woman may be strong and ready to go on national television and bare her soul to millions but we do not live in isolation. As individuals we are parts of a greater society. So if a woman goes on TV and accuses her husband of battering, what does that do to her children, her husband, her extended family? And even if now it seems a great idea to be on TV, 10 years from now will she be happy about the footage that will be accessible to all online?

Also asked myself where is the voice the accused? We heard of husbands who battered, uncles who raped, mothers who were negligent. None of these were giving a hearing. Balance is key in media. You always strive to get both sides of the story. So is NTV opening itself up for defamation suits?

Let me digress, defamation is the airing of content that soils a persons otherwise good name and causes them to be shunned by right thinking members of the society. You may say that no names were mentioned but if you say uncle who raised me, my husband, my mother then that is as good as naming them. And in defamation the burden is on ‘he who alleges’ so NTV by airing the accusations will be expected to provide evidence of alleged crime.

Moving on, to me counseling is meant to heal and bring closure. Confront the issue or the person and deal with it. How they will achieve this on TV is beyond me. Shouldn’t counseling be private and individual? How then do you have people with varying problems all in one room and then proceed to diagnose them and prescribe solutions?

The counselor also greatly matters. The show’s counselor comes across to me as trying to be mix of Tyra, Oprah and Dr. Phil. This leads me to the fact that the qualifications of the counselor were not presented for scrutiny. Who is she and what is her locus standi?

The fact that there was reference to auditions being held for the women who were then chosen to appear on TV based on the ‘gravity’ of their emotional hurt is something I found off. Emotional hurt or psychological trauma is not a joke or something to be trifled with.

Should counseling be a subject for Reality TV? The model has worked in Tyra, Oprah and Dr. Phil but will it work in our society? What is our culture? What is our world view? How do we address home/private matters? It is all well and good to say we are urban and sophisticated and that we can talk about everything in publicly now but is this the case in Mogotio or Nguruweni?

I am not belittling the women who bravely told their stories on national TV but all I heard was how other people’s actions ruined their lives. Thus I wonder should we encourage the culture of calling up someone to help you fix your problems instead of taking charge of your life and charting the course? Maina Kageni breakfast show is a long running example of where folk chose to hand over the reins of their lives to other people to make decisions for them.

Finally what is the utility value of the show? And what is the impact that it might eventually have to an audience?

Spoke to my psychiatrist friend and apart from him being appalled by the show he spoke of trend building. This is where bad things through gradually media acceptance are seen to be cool and they became a fad to the audience. Easiest way to illustrate is that through Maina’s breakfast show, cheating in marriage in Kenya has been made normal.

That is the power of the media.

From the show I got the fact that women (people) are carrying around incredible baggage. I totally agree that the issues raised need to be addressed. Regular readers will know how I am entirely against censorship or burying heads in the sand.

My concern is regarding the mode and means of doing so – Group counseling on national television.

Have several friends who are all praises regarding Alabastron.

Spoke to one today and she insisted that the society has been silent for too long and it is time we addressed the injustices visited on women (people) emotionally or psychologically.

She contended that while men are able to compartmentalize their issues women will carry their hurt into every aspect of their lives. Therefore she felt that Alabastron is a brilliant initiative.

Regarding the My Unspoken TV show she asked me to reserve judgment until I have watched all the 13 episodes. I shall do so but that does not mean I cannot comment on the first show that I watched. That is the spirit in which this ‘review’ is written.

This post has many questions because the show left me with very many questions. On media programming, on influence of churches and church leaders, on the rise of reality TV and on the state of families, marriages and relationships in Kenya. I am still musing over them.

As usual, this is a conversation.

What did you think of My Unspoken?




23 responses to “My Unspoken – Premiere review

  • Ademide

    God bless you for breaking the silence. On Tuesday, the 25th I went to bed a very disturbed person. I kept asking myself what is the objective of this programme.

    I was asking myself how can one do auditions based women’s’ issues? What is the criterion for selection? How can one make it a reality show? What is the objective of airing the programme? It is another captivating show? What happens to confidentiality as code of ethics?
    Did they ever consider the reaction from the viewers, the family members, close friends, employers of these women, and the people being accused of neglect, rape and abuse? I believe that the life of these women will never be the same again. What impact will this have on the children of the women on this programme? I can imagine their life will never be the same again. Imagine their children being made fun of in school. The other children saying something like “your mother is a rape victim or is beaten by her husband”. These children probably didn’t know that their parents’ marriage was rocky. Imagine the children dealing with the fear that their parents may divorce. This is just but a few of the effects it would have to the family members.

    The fact that we are airing it on TV makes it unfair because we are working with one side of the story. We would like to hear “my unspoken” of the other party too.

    Personally, I feel this programme may do more harm than good b’coz of the exposure. Some people may be hearing these issues the first time that they caused a woman pain. I am putting myself in the shoes of the woman who thinks that having the daughter raised by her parents in the village and not raising her daughter herself in Nairobi was doing the best for that child. She could be discovering this hurt or is hurting her daughter for the first time.

    “The unspoken” is a real issue in the society that must be addressed. The programme, however, has got it wrong b’coz of making it a reality show. I have heard so much about the Alabastron programme and the only reason why I have not attended is b’coz I am an evening student. I think there is loss of focus. It should stick to its initial objective there they help women to overcome their issues in a private session.

    I am appealing to NTV and Madam Bidali to re-consider airing this programme. Do a “cost-benefit” analysis bearing in mind we are operating in an African set-up.

    • moderatekenyan


      Thank you for reading.

      I am humbled by your lengthy well-thought out response.

      The post has been shared to the organizers of Alabastron on twitter and I can only hope they will take into consideration our views.

      Yes, marriages, relationships, people are hurting and broken in Kenya, the question is how to help mend them without causing more harm.

      Moderate Kenyan.

  • Ms. J

    I am an Alabastron Alumni. When I first heard there would be a TV show, frankly , I didn’t know what to think because Alabastron’s strong point is that it provides a safe environment to express your inner most issues. But I thought, perhaps it will help other women who did not know where to go for their issues. Then I watched the show…Frankly I am disturbed. Because in summary, women’s issues have become reality TV. What??? I think they have lost the plot on this one and I can only hope that this will not affect the credibility of the Alabastron’s programme. I hear you when you say that ladies who have done Alabastron sing of its praises. I believe I am fairly objective and can say what i agree with or don’t agree with. I think Ms.Bidali is doing this for herself rather than for these women. Time will tell.

    Meanwhile I’m still getting calls from people asking me ” What the h*** were you doing in Alabastron? We didn’t know you had such issues?”

    See? I’m already losing credibility! And I’m not even on the show!

  • Geoffrey Angote

    I am of the opinion that if it helps even one lady find themselves and overcome their past hurt then it is worth it? The legal issues notwithsatnding!

  • lokonje grace

    Am so glad that you brought the show on tuesday a friend had shared that i watch am telling people heal when they get someone they can trust and they open they heart to God bless you

  • browneyedgal

    This blog lives up to it’s name. I like the way you express your thoughts/opinion in a sober manner.

    I’m also an Alabastron Alumni. I am such a private person that if my healing was pegged to expressing myself on National TV, then I would so gladly pass on that healing.

    Which brings me to my point. I imagine those women, like me, are thinking persons. Meaning, if faced with such a situation, the average thinking person is able to make a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision without being coerced. When I was taking the programme, I was invited to share the experience of my personal safari on the website. I was more than willing to do so as long as it was under an alias and ofcourse, no photo. But when I e-mailed my story to the web administrator, she tried severally to convince me to have my photo put up along with my real name. Many of my emotional wounds have been caused by my Dad. My Dad is a single parent. My only living parent. I have dealt with my past and the ending of my story is a happy one.

    But no way in hell I was gonna expose my Dad to judgement. I thought, everyone who knows me would also know him, my friends and relatives. I stood firm and was ready to tell her if she persisted further to just forget about it altogether if she wasn’t ready to use an alias. I am very liberal. I am born and raised in the city. I have embraced issues such as gay rights. But I embrace my culture too. I will never get unafricanised enough to ‘dishonour’ (strong word I know) my parent. Not even when it will help me and someone else.

    Which brings me back again to my point. These women had a choice. And they chose to come out on National TV. There will be consequences. Hopefully, they are ready to deal/live with them.

    • moderatekenyan


      Thank you for reading and for the compliments. I appreciate.

      I am glad to hear that your story has a happy-ending.

      I am totally for breaking the silence and addressing all the issues that for so long have been swept under the carpet. My only issue is the mode – National TV.

      You have hit the nail on the head, there will be consequences and I also pray that the women will be able/ready to deal with them.

      Moderate Kenyan

  • Francis

    May God bless you all for this programme which will be a great remedy to my mother who have been in similar issues that you are tackling in the programme. God be with you. Thanks.

  • EWK

    There is an extent to which womens matters have always been treated as closet issues (women’s monthlies, their private bits being shrouded in much secrecy, their troubles being hidden away and spoken of behind closed doors and in hushed tones). So to some extent I can identify with the proponents of ‘coming out’ ..

    After a few episodes or perhaps even seasons, there is a real danger that the issues (and they all be real things happening to real people) will gain a gratuitous element to themselves .. a little like the Busted show. Where there is no real empathy generated, or greater understanding in society
    Just fodder for the social wags and for bar chatter.

    • moderatekenyan


      I certainly do not advocate silence.

      However I worry that counseling on national TV may do more harm than good.

      It would be sad if Unspoken became another Busted.

      How to strike a balance is the question.

      Moderate Kenyan

  • Other side of the story

    I think our culture is interesting. We had rather the battered woman keep quiet than the batterer be exposed on TV. Because he is probably a big shot manager in a respectable institution or even a high ranking public servant and we dont want to rock that boat do we?Let the battered woman be treated by a counsellor in private and the batterer get away with it? just like with Rape in this country where the raped ends up being blamed (its how they dressed, they led the guy on etc) and its led countless raped women to keep quiet about their rdeals because our culture doesnt “talk about these things in public”. And who came up with that culture anyway? a bunch of elders in 1805 who in a male chauvinistic society which lives on to date? Isnt culture defined by people like Bidali who reverse trends and bring life to many struggling people? The only people with something to fear are perpetrators of the things the women underwent, and the women did so knowing there would be consequences. a year from today, no one will remember the show , we will have all moved on to the next fad, but a lot of women will have learnt to deal with their issues and find healing through this show. Thats my opinion after watching all the episodes so far and im a guy.

    • moderatekenyan

      Other side of the story,

      At no point did I defend the batterer or say the women should be quiet.

      You make my point when you say it is ‘entertainment’ for you today and forgotten tomorrow.

      However the women and their families, children will have live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.

      Moderate Kenyan

  • Amy

    I dare say that a vulnerable person is easily coerced. What I see in “my unspoken” is the selfishness of the organizers of Alabastron to meet their own goals regardless of harm done. These hurt women will heal, yes but they will be seriously ostracized by their communities – I suppose they can then audition for another “my unspoken” session to deal with that as well? In the spirit of social ethics, I challenge Laimani to do the honorable thing and withdraw this programme from National TV as it trivializes and makes a mockery of peoples emotional burdens through the obvious commercialization. It is equivalent to a shrink making a reality show out of patient sessions. I believe Alabastron is great – in the setting it was originally meant for – private sessions. It is possible for a doctor to treat his patients without the laboratory being open-air!

  • S

    I’ve been hesitant to write about this for so long yet I have had a lot to say.

    First thing I feel the family structures that you talk of and the guidance of older women as well as these networks broke down in the 90’s and earlier. The education and city life lived by our folks broke down the structure and the situations faced were often beyond or unfamiliar to the aunts and mothers who would have presented guidance. Therefore women have been walking around with their hurt and damaging not only themselves but the ones they love for a long while.
    I grew up in a situation where I was the younger of the three generations of women. In terms of friendships and dealing with these issues there was nothing like that. If anything there was enmity between the women and the generations. As a young kid you pick up on adult behavior and relations as your template whether it’s right or wrong.

    The other unfortunate consequence of this was that us the children got to know way too much for our age. We knew ‘adult business’ and it affected us. For me it made me a recluse, I’d hide out to avoid all the drama.
    Fast forward to now, all this and my own choices have left me with things I needed to deal with. Talking to friends offers sympathy and it is quite easy to get addicted to the pity and the way people treat you. In fact it can keep people living their lives with sob stories. This is because sometimes your friends don’t know how to help. You don’t know how to get out of whatever cycle you are in but you know you need a way out.

    The life we live has often a unique set of problems and it takes more than anything the individuals willingness to bare themselves and DEAL. issue by issue and put their lives back together. You can dismiss it as the western way of dealing but it has presented the best solution. We’re lacking in the networks and sisterhoods that would do this. We’re slowly rebuilding them but those who will benefit will be the younger generations.
    Whether or not we like it we are living a predominantly western life and it comes with it’s own set of problems.

    Now to the matter of it being public. I don’t know if I would have had my experience on TV but I do know I have wanted to tell it at some point because I know that it may speak to another young girl going through what I did and give her hope. I believe that is what they are trying to achieve here. For the many women drowning themselves in their careers, children’s lives, alcohol and other addictions they need to know that there is a way out.
    It is a huge risk because like someone said it could be bar talk and gossip fodder.

    Flip side it will be worth it for the daughter whose mother watches it and finally gets the fear and stress her children go through and decides to leave. The gift of a mother in that case is priceless.
    About the defamation I do know there is a part where they deal with that. Realize that in the beginning women are tied to the narratives of the lives which are often how they remember them or how it suits them. The discovery of the fact that sometimes we ourselves are to blame for these things that happen in our lives and how people treat us is a shattering realization but it takes some time to get there. Some never do. The appreciation is that the experiences that people have shape their world view and what is obvious to some is not on the radar for others.

    As far as consequences which is something I guess was why I would not be willing to do it on TV my friend gave me an analogy which may be appropriate. If you’re in public and discover that safari ants are all over you, decorum will be thrown out of the window because your most important focus is to get rid of them. If the suffering and experiences have driven them to a cliff they would be willing to do whatever it took and be willing to face the consequences of being on TV for the sake of the healing.
    To give them credit I hear the pre-interview was intense for example the lady who was a victim of domestic victim came with an adult daughter. Assuming her children are all adults although it seemed even if they weren’t they had seen it in the home. This means they would be willing to have their mother do whatever it took to heal her. I guess as much as we didn’t like it that must have been the point of the vetting them.

    It’s a journey.. Let’s see.

    • moderatekenyan


      I am glad you read and took time to comment.

      Unsure if the western life cuts across to all or a select few in the urban areas. As this is broadcast on national tv them my question as to its relevance to a woman in Mogotio is timely.

      Agree the networks are frayed and thus progrmammes like Alabastron are awesome to re-create them.

      However, my gripe is the public nature of the counseling.

      I am a media person and therefore I am more aware of the impact of media.

      Were the women properly briefed? Do the organizers realize the repercussions? Are they solving one problem and creating a new one? Are we really that westernized that we can ignore our culture and communal/family ties for the sake of individualism?

      Those are the questions that inspired the post.

      I am not sure if they have or they will be answered.

      I salute the women for being brave enough to do this however I pray that it does not boomerang on them.

      Moderate Kenyan.

  • angwa

    This show is here on time.any one that cares for the virtues of family, marriage n life in todays society ignores it at their own peril. All factors of (laws,traditions,believes,privacy etc)constant the issues exposed in ths program are daring real shying off is contributing very little at resolving n providing Hope for many. It is notable how numerous media adverts, programing n developed society is quickly diluting virtues n values that uphold family n good living.
    How can I help my wife participate atleast if men r not welcomed yet. Kudos to producers.May God give you great success with this programming. Wilson.

  • Pamela Rose

    Thank you for this open forum for feedback . I have attended the Alabastron programme , and it was indeed liberating. One of Alabastron aims at providing a safe place for self renewal .
    My Unspoken .. This is surely not safe ,if it is for the benefit of the lady participants . I do trst you will offer them post -my unspoken support ,to help them deal /fit back in ,with their families and children, and themselves. The ladies feedback thereafter will indicate the level of success of the My Unspoken .

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