Accepted paper:

Mutumia Ngatha: Contested Gikuyu womanhood, urbanisation and change

Authors:

Njoki E. Wamai (United States International University-Africa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how urbanisation in Kenya is gradually shifting concepts of 'mutumia ngatha' among middle class and working class Gikuyu women as they negotiate patriarchal atitudes that have inhibited their advancement.

Paper long abstract:

Gikuyu womanhood has been in flux since the colonial encounter and the resulting colonisation of Central Kenyan highlands where most Kikuyu women lived as documented by Kanogo (2005). In contemporary urban centres in Kenya, the concept of the'ideal Gikuyu womanhood' is fluid and complex with competing notions of traditional domesticity and submissiveness as well as new forms of womanhood that support women's independence and economic self-sufficiency.The ideals of 'Mutumia ngatha' a complex notion of Christian and Gikuyu womanhood popularised by the Gikuyu gospel hit and the bible texts, continues to inform advice to young women during 'modern' Christian weddings with symbolic traditional gifts such as the kiondo and traditional pots given to women as a reminder about Gikuyu womanhood. In her seminal text on African womanhood Kanogo (2005) documented how Kenyan women negotiated social, cultural and economic changes 1900-1950 through individual concepts of personhood. This paper aims to develop this further by exploring how urbanisation is gradually shifting concepts of 'mutumia ngatha' among middle class and working class women as they negotiate patriarchal atitudes that have inhibited their advancement in the urban space. I argue that by taking advantage of opportunities urbanisation has presented that allow for self sufficiency,Gikuyu women are accomodating and contesting the idea of mutumia ngatha while adapting it to suit their personal concepts of womanhood.

panel P017 CANCELLED
Gender transition and urban societal wellbeing in Eastern Africa