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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Women's Forum Meeting, August, 2010

As I was reviewing my notes from last year's expedition, I realized I had never posted the notes I took during our women's forum meeting held at the KCC.  We invited women from Mnyenzeni to join us for tea, cookies and an opportunity to talk openly about our different lives.


Wednesday, August 4

Women's meeting at KCC

All women came with babies.  12 village women, 13 Americans: 
Robyn Kimball - Utah
Umazi Dzombo - Mnyenzeni
Mjeni Dongoi - Mwache
Kendy Taylor - California
Uchi Chondo - Mnyenzeni
Zawadi Ndawa - Mnyenzeni
Asha Dzombo - Mnyenzeni
Marcie- Utah
Lacee- Utah
Sherrie- Utah
Mbeyu Chombo - Mnyenzeni
Fatuma Chondo - Mnyenzeni
Leigh - Utah
Cindy- Utah
Shelley- Utah
Sara Chikuta - Mnyenzeni
McCall- Utah
Kanga Juma - Mnyenzeni
Mjeni Viyani - Vikolani
Kris - Mwaka- Utah
Zilpa Mlongo - Mwongaraba
Ingrid (KweKwe) Utah
Margaret Luvuno - Mnyenzeni
Naomi Mwenda - Mnyenzeni
Jami (Chizi)- Utah
Lindsay (Pola)- Utah

Open time for questions:

There was a vote held during our stay, the citizens got to vote on the constitution.  
Kris: Who voted?  7 women voted.

Constitution interpretation:

New constitution is better.  President has to win by certain percentage.
People vote and win is decided immediately, not months later. 

Naomi:  Most people are squatters, at any time they could be told to move out.  
Land in Duruma land is clan owned. 

Margaret: She has decided to vote for constitution for next generation.  Has brought men and women together in vote.  Equal rights approaching.  Kind of a 70-30 equation.  Encourages women's education.  This constitution will give women more rights, especially in area of inheritance.  Women will be counted in division of parents assets, not just men now.  No child labor.  Children to be in school not working through Grade 8.  6,000 ksh per year for scholarship, only for school lunch cost.  10,270 ksh from government for school fees. 

It appears the constitution will pass.

Men also supportive of this vote.

What is issue they are concerned with most?   
Delivering babies.  Most give birth at home with help of a midwife (often mother-in-law).  Average # of children for Duruma:  8-9  

Reasons for large family: naming children after someone important to them. Lack of family planning is tradition.  They need to birth more than 10 children to be called an "African woman".  High mortality rate.  Out of 100 children, 20 die before 5.  If they don't continue pregnancies, they worry husband will leave.  Hesitant to do family planning, for fear of husband's reaction  2 of the group have 10 or more children.  One of them was 15 when she had her first child.

Most standard 8 dropouts get married and pregnant young.  Question: what would happen if girls get pregnant without being married: Traditionally chased to grandma or aunt and will not come back.  OR your parents will ask you to tell who is the father of the child and you will be forced to marry him.  If you marry someone else the child remains with aunt or grandma. 

How many have had a child die? 8 of the 12.  Margaret has had 3 children die, 3 months, pneumonia.  Malaria, 6 months.  Malaria, 15 months. 

Question from Margaret: What does our constitution do for women.  In Kenya it is possible for a woman to run for president.  But women don't generally support women politicians there. 

Husbands can beat wives, wives can seek legal action but it is a long tedious process.

Question:  Is family planning practiced in states? What is size of average family?  surprised by the answer of 2-3.  Surprised by Jami having 8 children, having many children ages mothers here, so they look much older than we do.  Margaret is about 40.

When they have twins did they know they were having them? One did, one did not.

Often people go away and live together without marriage.

No dowry paid for wife in U.S.  Bret explained specifics of relationship in America.  Now that girls are becoming educated, their daughters will begin to move the way of Americans.  By letting them get educated, they will improve their lives. 

After they have a baby, how long do they rest.  40 days of rest.  A family member will come to help them with work.

Is husband there when your children are born? In hospital, they are able to be there.  At home, no.

Can a man have two wives in America?  No, he will get sent to jail.  Laughter.

Bret:  In U.S. he will cook in his kitchen.  Help clean the house.  If he has his friends at the house, he will cook and serve them.  In Kenya the husband will order the wife out until the baby is quiet. 

When a husband has more than one wife, the wives do not get along and usually don't live near each other.  Men sneak out to see other women.  Women always have responsibility of the home and family. 

Most difficult work they do?  Fetching firewood.  Fetching water.  Working in fields.

If something needs to be purchased, where do they get money to buy?  If husband is working, he can give money for a purchase.  If husband has no work, women must do odd jobs to raise funds. 

Raise hand if husband works with a salary.  2 raised hand.  1 works at dispensary.  1 works as a cook at a boarding school.  One lady has a husband who was employed but he died from a boil (abscess).  The remainder of them will raise corn in their shambas to survive.
   
As you can see from my notes, I was typing as a conversation was going on.  It was an interesting conversation.  Bret coming into the room helped the conversation get going.  The village women in Kenya tend to be very quiet and submissive.  They aren't quick to offer information, unless they know or trust you.  They know Bret because he has been coming to Mnyenzeni for so may years.  They offered more information once he encouraged them to talk to us.  

During the 2 hours we met, the women enjoyed chai tea and the flat biscuit type cookies common here.  They were quick to feed their babies both the tea and cookies as well.  

The American women enjoyed the information we gleaned from the village women, and learned more about their lives.  This kind of interaction helps us to understand their lives better.  We as Americans have such easy lives by comparison.  

An interesting afternoon. 

Asante sana, 

IVL

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