Accepted paper:

Women as agents of change in a transforming pastoral Pokot society (East Pokot, Kenya)


Anja Becker (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focusses on women as agents of change in a transforming pastoral Pokot society. It explores ways of female resilience to social, economic and ecological change and how these changes are accompanied by a reorganization of social and normative relationships between men and women.

Paper long abstract:

Sedentarization in East Pokot is spreading. Customary household structures with a male head of the homestead who distributes tasks to his co-wives and children are more and more diminishing. In sedentarized settlements, women as main wage earners are common place. They seek employment as household assistants, fetch water and firewood for money or start small business like brewing or local shops. Men often struggle to adapt to these new surroundings; many are unemployed. As a consequence, divorce rates are high, domestic violence is increasing and birth rates are decreasing. Even in still pastoral settings, household transformations are taking place. More and more women have small brewing businesses. Herewith earned money belongs to the women and has to be used to provide for the needs of them and their children. Many co-wives do not cohabit in one homestead. Rather the customary homestead is divided into geographically scattered independent household units consisting of a mother and her children, which are regularly visited by the homestead head. In pastoral and sedentarized settings, more girls (and boys) are schooling, and FGM is regressing. This paper focusses on (1) the ongoing changes women are facing; (2) the economic, political, symbolic and social agencies of women; (3) the impact of these transformations on everyday relationships between men and women; (4) the normative notions of right and wrong female behavior.

panel MMM09
The emerging world of pastoralists and nomads (IUAES Commission on Nomadic Peoples)