International Women’s Day was on Thursday. We celebrated our mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends and women in general. I got curious. I wanted to know what was the place of the woman in Meru? What was the role of the woman? I called my mother and wondered about it.
We have made strides in equity and achieved so much but to get here we came from somewhere. This is what I wanted to know.
I will focus on the role of a wife and a mother. A wife was expected to feed her family. The role of food provision fell squarely on the wife’s shoulders. When a woman got married she was in charge of the land where the family got their food from. She was expected to till the land, plant and harvest food that would feed the family and sometimes sell or share the surplus. The soil, the trees and livestock in the family belonged to the man. No woman was allowed to own land in the olden days, the land was a preserve of the men. The man planted yams and the woman was not allowed to handle the yams. The man would tend his yams and harvest them when they were ready. I bet that where the phrase “nkwa cia akuru” originated from.
The man would graze and hunt but he wouldn’t farm the family land. He worked outside the home.
The other role of the woman was to advise young women and girls on the ways of the community. They kept young women in check and ensured they respected the elderly. To differentiate between young girls and mature younger women they used to “gukura nkuro” they used to cut small marks “turosho” on their bodies from the waist up to their shoulders as a form of decoration. Remember we talked about how women used to walk around with their breasts greeting the air? These “turosho” were beauty marks. I bet you have seen older women with small slit marking under their eyes. Those are the type of beauty marks I am talking about.
We are here today celebrating the achievements of our women let us never forget that our ancestors fed their families. Let us never forget the role they played to get us here. Let us celebrate each generation as it emerges. A lot has changed but let’s never forget our history.
P.S If anyone knows an older woman or man who can tell us stories about “karaja” let us know we would love to bask in their wisdom and curate those stories for you here.