June 1 is Children’s Day in over 40 countries on five continents, but in Kenya, where roughly half the population is 14 or under, June 1 is Madaraka Day, one of Kenya’s three national holidays.
- Madaraka Day: June 1
- Kenyatta Day: October 20
- Jamhuri Day: December 12
The original Madaraka Day was June 1, 1963 when Kenya gained self-rule for the first following a century of colonization.
Madaraka means “autonomy” or “self-rule”. On the first Madaraka Day in 1963, Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta addressed the importance of the concept of “Hamrabee”.
“As we participate in pomp and circumstance, and as we make merry at this time, remember this: we are relaxing before the toil that is to come. We must work harder to fight our enemies — ignorance, sickness and poverty. I, therefore, give you the call Harambee! Let us all work hard together for our country—Kenya.”
Jomo Kenyatta, quoted by Anthony Cullen, reprinted in “How to Develop Resources for Christian Ministries“, 2004
Harambee comes from a Bantu term. meaning “work together” or “let us all pull together”. In bears much in common with ujamaa, a term popularized in Western culture by the emergence of Kwanzaa.
“Harambee is not new but a traditional principle which existed in every traditional society in Kenya. Each society had self-help or co-operative work groups by which groups of women on the one hand and men on the other organised common work parties, for example to cultivate or build houses for each other; clear bushes, harvesting etc.”
Six months later, on December 12, 1963, Kenya achieved full independence as the Republic of Kenya.
[The date of Kenya’s independence became of paramount interest in the United States in 2009 after a document surfaced purporting to be President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. The “Republic of Kenya” document is dated February 17, 1964.]