Puberty and Adolescence

When youth (oburaga) shades into puberty, the Samia life course divides sharply along gender lines, with sharp distinctions in work activities and the social and spatial separation of females and males. A girl (omukhana omuraga) becomes a "ripe" or "mature" person (omwangafu) physically and socially when her body matures and she begins to menstruate. In indigenous society, she was ready to marry. However, a boy (omusiani omuraga) does not become omwangafu until he reaches full physical maturity and has the strength to do a man's work along with the ability to manage a home. Only then is he ready for marriage. In indigenous society girls married quite young, while male youth spent years as cattle herders and warriors before marrying. With the colonial suppression of warfare, male youth became migrant laborers. Today education has brought further changes in life patterns.

In the past about half the Luyia subgroups, including Bukusu, Idakho, Isukha, and Maragoli, had male circumcision and initiation ceremonies and named age-grades that served to reckon age or seniority among men (only Abatachoni circumcised females); a few communities still circumcise, though the ceremonies are much abbreviated to fit school schedules and are increasingly controversial. Tiriki, borrowing from Nilotic Terik neighbors, had male circumcision and initiation plus a formal age-group system that was the basis of Tiriki sociopolitical organization. Many Abaluyia, influenced by Nilotic peoples, removed one to six lower incisors of all children around age 6 or 7; for females, the resulting gap was regarded as a mark of beauty. In groups without circumcision, including Abasamia and Banyala, tooth removal marked the early stage of adulthood. All such practices were or are only the beginning of the long process of achieving adulthood.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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