Leadership in Public Arenas

Public leadership roles are all held by men. Nandi District is divided into locations, and the locations into sublocations. The sublocation is the local community, or "village." The sublocation that was the main site of my ethnography had 286 households or about 2,300 people in 1975. The government-appointed (based on popular preference) chief of the sublocation is a paid position, and the most obvious leadership role. Each neighborhood (kokwet) within the sublocation also has an "elder," whose main duty is to settle neighborhood disputes. All these offices are held only by men. Decisions involving the whole community are taken in a council of all adult men of the community, led by the Chief. Any married man has the theoretical right to participate in these meetings; in practice, discussions are dominated by a group of influential elders. Discussion proceeds to consensus. Consensus has been reached when, after a considerable period of talk, an apparent conclusion is stated by a leading elder, and nobody disagrees thereafter. Women may observe at these meetings, but not participate. Disputes and minor criminal cases are sometimes heard and judged by a council of (male) elders. In such proceedings, women may speak as parties to the dispute or as witnesses.

There are no positions of leadership for the whole community that women may hold. A local branch of the national women's organization Maendeleo ya Wanawake was just beginning to become active after a hiatus as I was leaving the field. Positions in such an organization would be women's only arena for leadership. However, a Nandi woman from another area was a popular national member of parliament in the 1970s.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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