NYANZA: THE GRAVEYARD OF EQUALITY & FEMINISM
Updated: Jan 28, 2021
I had promised that I would never bring my professional life and technical training into this blog. I have tried so far. Unfortunately 40 years of your life is not easy to separate from your life story.
You find that between every line and punctuation mark your industry experience of 40 years keep on popping up. So today for the first time I want cross the boundary and let you into the Industry that I spent most of my life.
I have worked in the Third Sector (or International Non-Governmental Organization) most of my life. As a support staff not directly involved with the line functions I found the dynamics that led to the failure in project implementation very intriguing.
The first such projects was Siradidi Rural Enterprise And Community Health (REACH). One of the activities of REACH was quality life style to promote safe mother hood. It was in effect trying to embrace the Luo cultural practice why sex formed a tapestry into Luo rituals and taboos. In other words absence of ritual sex life could precipitate adverse conditions as say heart weaknesses. I cannot eloquently explain because its many years ago and besides I am not a technical person.
The design was perfect even for migratory workers in urban cities. For example the ritual belief that a child gets sickly if the father has marital affairs dovetailed nicely with quality motherhood. To the lactating mothers it meant the child will not be sickly as the man was not engaging in infidelity that will drain the nourishment resources. Besides physiologically breast milk is never in short supply husband and wife make up regularly. To armchair traditionalist it was our answer as to why a child becomes sickly when the man casts the net away from home.
In the other site of the project around Malindi area, Margharini to be specific the project made sense to the urban migrants of Kisumu Ndongo and the local ethnic community.
This was fine until the two projects came face to face with the implementation hindrances. In Siradidi along Lake Victoria, the loss of children was very high. Now how do you promote family planning to a woman who has faced the death of a child? Malaria and sickle cell are not so easy to propound in a seminar in some hotel to a group of mothers.
In Malindi we had a different kind of obstacle. The clinics at rural health centres were not partitioned with sound proof walls and doors. Most of the clinics were separated by curtains between the reception and the private ward. It was not easy for these mothers to talk freely about their problems to these health technicians. And the mothers also preferred some of the medical instructions to be delivered in privacy with out the other women hearing. The shame these gossips would bring meant that it was easier for these women to choose a fee charging herbalist over the freebie REACH ( our project) was dishing out.
And just like in Siradidi, REACH was a non-starter in this areas. It is the same with some of these noble projects like Feminism when the project design is either inflexible or the environment was not well scanned.
Feminism in Luo-Nyanza arrived on the back drop of permissiveness from miniskirt to sexually explicit Kibushi from Lubumbashi, East Congo. It faced resistance right away because it was not well explained that it was nothing to do with permissiveness and free sex. It was grossly misunderstood like the role of the chicken in Luo domestic violence which was not properly explained to the progressive Luos that the chicken was for cleansing off the evil spirits in sacrilege (violence) to your personal Chi (goddess/oracle). In the same way as the blood of Jesus and the body of Christ- only that one is foreign and good. Actually it was a bull with ancient Luos at first then economics downgraded it incrementally to chicken.
And we all come short of feminism, me included. After decades of persuasion I grudgingly accepted that it was okay for a woman to pay my bills when some Essex colleagues asked me a simple question, “Would it be alright for you if your son or brother was to pay a bill for a lady who earns the same, well trained and have many working years ahead of her just because she is a woman?" However as a Luo in time warm of traditions I still struggle to let a woman pick my bills even if it means getting blacklisted on credit score for running my card. That is why I am not surprised by the responses of these Luo ladies. And honestly ask any Luo woman offsite and you will be surprised at how much they not only identify with these ladies responses, but how they believe in them with gusto.
Some of the responses (in bold) below to the hubby can tell you where we missed the boat. Others are telling a story why we really don’t need to settle on European type of equality and feminism. We really do need to diversify these noble ideals. And still on other episodes you can infer opportunistic hindrances.
(Some responses are authentic, first-hand experience. The NGO names above and the locality are real. The failed projects are real)
1. Rambanya ma Lembe ofuono, aneno Ka iduogo Ka ihulambra, we adhi amod nie osehelele.
(Cute face, let me go fetch fire wood)
Ma dayudi! idwa ni oketh nyinga ni ot otama rito.
(God help you if I catch you giving me a reputation in the village as a town dweller)
2. Darling I bought take away to save you from cooking tonight.
Is that after or before you ordered your side chic's take away. Sorry, I am not an afterthought.
3. Sweet heart let me make you a cup of tea.
Response: Japuonj ma tinde puonji tedo no, idhi kwere ni dichuo ma ariwo kode amodh-no to onge. (I am not in the business of sharing my kitchen with other women) __________________________________________________________________
4. I am taking day off to today to keep you company, dear.
Dhi ihungualha na kucha gi Dear. Isejemo ang'o oko kuro? Ang'eyi! Oda Ka to ok maternity ward. Dwar mana kama idhie kode.
(I wonder why you are home early, this is not like you. Whatever it is I hope it does not follow you into my house)
5. Let me keep you company in the kitchen, Ama aje Jaber nyiri.
Response: nyar abingo Kia kata tedo. Idwaro ng'eyo tedo mondo idhi ipuonje? Wog na I Jokon
(You just want to steal my recipe to go and train the untrainable. Get out of my kitchen!)
6. Kel lewni aket ni I washing machine oluokre. Sweetie please.
(Let me do the laundry, just for today)
idwa rango Ka lepa owono ka mag andwache ni ma ra mgwuowo. Sicho! Bu isero nyiri ma silil; to ochido ka mbidhi. Thichria!
(You just want to find fault with my cleanliness! Don’t compare me to that dirty thing of yours)
7. This Corona is a game changer. It is bringing a lot of sadness in the world
Eeee Even your Toyota Corolla was a game changer. It brought a lot unhappiness to this family. I never asked you to buy a car as if I am less of a woman
8. Koro onego watum family planning mondo I bende imed tiegri I career ni.
(We should now embark on family planning to let get your career on track)
Family planning mag rocha gi nyuol to oko to inyuol ka surusuru.
(Is that the text that you were reading with a smile? You have finally made her pregnant)
9. This Covid 19 has messed the economy, how do we raise extra income
This Covid 19 has messed up closet polygamy, how do you feed extra family?
________________________________________________________________ 10. This quarantine is tiresome. I will go and make bed after the 9 O’clock news.
Nope! Just go to the sports bar and watch Arsenal football instead of reading the texts in the bedroom. I am used to you coming to bed at 2.am. I don’t want strangers in the bedroom .
Dholuo Glossary • surusuru= type of irritating minute crawling insects that infect chicken
• rocho = scramble or can mean delete • Thchria= exclamation to dismiss like 'go to hell'
• wono, same as tuodo = stained underwear, soapy poorly uncleaned clothes.
• abingo = clumsy, unpolished, not thorough • andwayo = loose man or woman but mostly a cheating man.
• amodh-no = equally, draw, alternate, 50-50
• Amodh-no = equally,
• fuaro = prescription, instructed as in medication or recipe
• hanya = gloat
• hulambra = exhausted, tired
• Jemo = erred, provoke, stoked
• Hungualha = brouhaha, glee, too excited about some intrigue
• lembe ofuono = dimples (beauty)
• mbidhi = wild pig
• modo = fetch firewood • muguowo = an unclean person, untidy
• Ogaka = cactus
• opamo = one night stand woman but generally woman of loose moral
• osehelele = shrub like firewood for quick meal preparation
• rambanya = gap tooth (beauty considered sexy/erotic)
• ridho nyinga = vilify
• sicho= exclamation to mean "serves you right" or "I told you there is nothing there"
• silil = young trendy voluptuous ladies
• thee thee = wet fry usually preferred by uncultured poorly tutored young Luo girls
• yuyo = malign