Women's Voices, Women's Power: Dialogues of Resistance from East Africa
Published: February 1997© 1997
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 224 Pages
Dimensions: 5.96 x 8.90
224 Pages, 5.96 x 8.90 x 0.50 in
Most ethnographic treatments of other cultures restrict the voice of their "subjects"; at most, description and analysis by the observer are accompanied by brief selective quotation. With a methodological openness that may be particularly appropriate to gender studies, anthropologist Judith Abwunza provides in this ethnography both the fruit of her research into the lives of Logoli women of Western Kenya and substantial transcripts giving the women's own description and analysis of their situation.
The Avalogoli remain a strongly patriarchal society. Yet, as in many such societies elsewhere in Africa and indeed around the world, women have demonstrated a resilience under patriarchy that has resulted in their nominal power being far outweighed by their actual power. As Abwunza demonstrates, the economic survival of the Avalogoli is dependent not only on women's works but also on their decision-making. Through 'back-door decisions' they have a surprising power to influence national as well as local events.
Women's Voices, Women's Power offers no apologies for a system that remains disturbingly patriarchal. But it does attempt to face directly the complexities and paradoxes involved—not the least of which is that many of the women posture an adherence to patriarchy even as they describe the disproportionate burden it places upon them. And it seeks an understanding of the ways in which Logoli society is changing in the face of increasing capitalism and commodification—processes that the author argues may simultaneously empower and disempower women.
Map One: Kenya and Western Province
Map Two: Maragoli
Part I: Unearthing the Patriarchal World
Introduction to Part I
A Note on Language
Chapter One: Avalogoli
Geography and Description of Place
Migration and Settlement: Avlogoli History
Notes on Avalogoli Traditions and Beliefs
Chapter Two: Women's Power and Voice
Patriarchy and Power
Conclusions to Part I
Part II: Women's Work
Introduction to Part II
Chapter Three: "Home Work"
The Daily Routine
The Annual Cycle
Chapter Four: "Outside Work"
"Digging for Others"
Full-Time Wage Labour
Conclusion to Part II
Part III: Back Door Decisions
Introduction to Part III
Chapter Five: The House and the Yard
Reciprocal Obligations and Benefits
Chapter Six: Expanding the Back Door
Conclusion to Part III
Part IV: "Posterity" and "Progress," Needs and Means
Introduction to Part IV
Chapter Seven: She Eats for Nothing!
Western Province and Kakamega District
Chapter Eight: "Silika--To Make Our Lives Shine"
Maragoli Women Groups
Conclusion to Part IV
Part V: Burying the Patriarchal World?
Chapter Nine: Omwene Hango Default
This book is an important addition to the still relatively small body of ethnographic literature that seeks to convey an understanding of the contemporary lives, concerns and predicaments of third world women through their own words and actions.Teresa Holmes, York University