Gender over the Life Cycle

Because Samburu gender is strongly differentiated by age, it is more accurate to speak of age-gender categories, rather than gender or age categories. A boy of any age is layieni—a girl is an ntito, but as she gets older can be referred to as the more respectful koliontoy. Once she is initiated and married, a young woman is ntomononi until she passes menopause, at which time she becomes an ntasat. A boy is a layieni until initiated as an Imurrani. At marriage he becomes an Ipayiani, a status he will keep throughout his life. As they move from one status to the next, both men and women acquire increasing rights as well as responsibilities. The greatest change in this regard is marriage. Women's responsibilities increase tremendously at marriage, but their status increases significantly once their children become initiated.

Socialization of Boys and Girls

There are few differences in the ways boys and girls are treated as infants. As they grow, however, boys are encouraged to become tough and aggressive, while nurturance is encouraged in girls. As Samburu children are the main herders, much of their early socialization centers on learning this task. Very young children are taught to wield a herding stick, and even toddlers can help put baby goats into their pens. By the age of 6 they can assist with herding small stock. Boys and girls both engage in similar herding tasks until puberty. Herding affords considerable leisure time, and children often play while the animals in their care graze nearby. The play of boys and girls becomes sharply differentiated by the time they are old enough to herd, though some mixed play continues. Boys enjoy chasing and killing small animals, while girls often make play houses with nearby stones.

Today, more and more children attend school. While in the past children who were educated were often those considered too stupid to be good herders, this is less the case today. Boys are more likely to be educated, since the benefits of education will remain with the birth family, rather than going to a girl's husband at marriage.

Puberty and Adolescence

The lives of girls and boys diverge dramatically when they reach puberty, largely because the age-set system delays male marriage. A new age set is initiated approximately every 14 years, at which time a new cohort of lmurran emerges, and the previous cohorts become married elders. "Boys" sometimes may have to wait until well into their twenties to become lmurran. Subsequently, because lmurran-hood is a lengthy period, men are typically in their thirties when they marry, while girls typically marry in their mid-teens.

Unmarried girls are girlfriends to lmurran, sometimes by the age of 10. It is a carefree time for them, and they are able to combine herding with time spent with boyfriends and other girls (Spencer, 1965). While lmurran are responsible for long-distance herding and martial activities, they also have a lot of leisure time to spend eating meat together in the "bush" or singing and dancing with their girlfriends.

Attainment of Adulthood

Samburu initiate both boys and girls through genital surgery. These literal cuts are also conceptualized metaphorically by Samburu within an idiom of cutting to divide and create categories. Clitoridectomy, usually performed at marriage, separates females from girlhood.

This surgery gives a girl full adult status, and it is expected that she should now be both nurturing and industrious, caring for her house and family. Initiation provides a young woman the license to bear children, as it is considered extremely unpropitious for uninitiated girls to have children. For a male, circumcision is a cut that separates him from boys while uniting him with his fellows. Yet it is not a cut that accords him full adult status. Lmurran are not allowed to marry, and they are subjected to harangues from their elders, enumerating their misdeeds and pushing them to attain the proper forms of respect (Spencer, 1965). However, it is expected that only upon marriage will a man abandon the hotheaded impulsiveness of an lmurran and exhibit the cool, temperate behavior of a true elder.

menstruation or early pregnancy, women can sometimes have "hot blood."

Married men are not hot-tempered. They cultivate the calm cool respect (nkanyit) which is the most fundamental Samburu value, and should put the needs of others (their families in particular) above their own. Women can also develop nkanyit, but more readily display anger and are considered less likely to behave altruistically outside of their family. Women attempt to show attentiveness to the livestock and children in their care and generosity toward those who request food from them. Young women tend to be more demure, becoming more assertive as they get older. These are of course ideals, and there is a broad range of personalities and temperaments between ideal and unacceptable extremes.

Middle Age and Old Age

Samburu men enter middle age at marriage. Through marriage men become elders (Ipayian) and gain increasing control of their own livestock. Men attain additional respect when their cohort becomes responsible for initiating a new age set and, later, when their own sons are initiated. Similarly, women's status increases when sons are initiated, and their daughters married. Typically, life also becomes easier by this time, since there are enough children to assist with herding and household tasks.

Both men and women are increasingly venerated as they grow old. Nonetheless, old people increasingly withdraw from the management of the community and their families. Often men disperse their herds to their sons long before death, leaving their children fully responsible for their care. The quality of care varies from family to family. Should the care become too lax however, grandmothers and grandfathers might remind their family of their power to curse them.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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