There are many reasons why Kikuyu women kill their husbands.”I was having a discussion with a friend who was asking why the Kikuyu family unit is usually disintegrated. The wife and children often will turn against their father and elder brother. I didn’t explain it as concisely as Dr. Wandia, but I echo the sentiments. I won’t speak of other ethnic communities, but in our community, the men were indoctrinated with imperialist ideology. They treat their family members as slaves working for them, they hold the property and means of economic production absolutely, and they wield this economic power as ruthless slave masters who can’t be questioned.
Many hold the belief that their duty is only in educating children, no scratch that, paying school fees…and they pay for the least expensive that won’t subject them to public ridicule. The rest they use as they wish. Having no consideration as to the well being of the family. Remember that women and children are viewed as elements of labour. They work the fields, the shop, tend to the cows and they get compensated with daily rations of food . Very much how colonists ruled. You’ve heard of men who never step into the coffee tea or maize plantation, or who never know how and what the diary cows eat, but are the ones who are named in the cooperatives and collect the proceeds from the labour of their own children. They then blow the money on prostitutes and fellow men. Any man who deviates from this practice is termed as weak, amekaliwa, and was not properly circumcised/initiated. As in taking care of your family by doing more than just paying school fees is anti-kikuyu culture.
In rural areas, especially where the man has land, the woman is expected to fed for her family by working on that land. You are not supposed to ask for food, coz you have land…what else do you want? Never mind men never provide for seeds and the fact that less than a third of the land is under subsistence farming. And in case you are wondering about priority of work, it is the unwritten rule that the family (wives and kids) should first work on the cash crop from 8-1pm and the rest they can work on getting their own food, washing, attending church and social activities. Women who still ask for cash from the man, especially where the man is employed, are viewed as lazy and spoilt brats.
The indirect rule is implemented through the first born, regardless of gender, but preference is to the male. So if there are 3 elder sisters, the male child takes over the imperialist apprenticeship program. These can be equated to a home guard or a chief who collaborates with the imperialist.
This community acknowledges the only benefit they will get is school fees being paid, and education they get. It’s their ticket out of the misery.
Now how does this work in modern Kikuyu families, where a woman works outside the home? The women are expected to use their income for family food, consumables. There is this common arrangement that the man uses his income for school fees, housing and development projects, and the woman caters for everything else.
And if there is still land, the woman still has to undertake the traditional duties of making sure that land is productive. But remember that the income generated belongs to the man, and if he is a good PCMF man, he will allow her to keep a portion of it for subsistence purposes. There is no actual compensation of labour. It’s the same concept of working for the white man every day and being paid a mkebe of maize flour and you should figure out where to get the veggies and proteins.
It is why I hate when activist, educationists and NGO executives apply the American concept of feminism to us. You see the American woman is trying to get to work outside the home, but for us, we have always worked. Actually women and children have always been seen as source of labour, the more you have the more land you can have worked on, the more they can produce for your benefit.
I always chuckle when I hear a lady says “This is not like old times when the woman was expected to stay at home and take care of the children.” Dear African women, there was never a time like that ever in our history. African women have never ever not worked. What our feminism should be about is getting paid for our work, fair trade, actual ownership of means of production, and fair work practices. Actually like African Americans, we should be fighting for repatriations and compensation for free labour. This stay-at-home mum where the lady stays at home but still has a domestic servant is concept that came with the English. It’s not even American. The American stay-at-home mum works at the home without any help from day one after being discharged from maternity bed. And that is why many Kikuyu women who have arrived will have 2-3 domestic servants on her payroll. One for household duties, 2 for gardening and sometimes one to help with the shop or business matters. And no, the husband does not pay for those house helps, coz the woman should be the one working and providing that labour.
There is this joke relating to modern Kikuyu man, which is not even funny, which is that a Kikuyu man marries a second wife if his business is expanding and he needs to open a branch in some other town/area. A Kikuyu man will never “keep” a woman. The woman earns their keep by working for him and occasionally they are treated by being taken out for Sunday out or a vacation or being bought for a car. In real sense, if a the woman was being fairly compensated for her work, she would have gotten all these things by her self. The reason they marry a wife is to “look after things. ” They know it’s cheaper to have a wife than employ an employee and pay market rates.
Have you also noted how in this community having a man pay school fees for kids is treated like a favour to the man? You will hear” mtu anakusomeshea watoto na bado unafanya madahrau” blah blah blah…It was said about Wairimu Cohen’s wife…it’s said even where the children are actually sired by the man. And on this issue, should I mention how it’s seen a shrewd to marry a lady who has children already, because she will always been indebted to you for “rescuing her” “educating her children” “saving her from ridicule” “hata sumbua” etc, while in real sense, the unspoken reason is that it will be easier to exploit her labour? She has no bargaining power etc. It’s also the reason why Kikuyu men prefer to pay dowry at a later stage in life , 2-3 children down the line so that the woman can’t just leave, coz its harder to leave. They say wacha tutafute kwanza, while in real sense it’s the woman who will work. So if you really look at it, she earns her dowry. Think about it.
The man owns the means of production (including wife and children), they work for him and for themselves, but the income is 90% owned by the man. I work on joint ventures and PPI, and PPPs and I can tell you that’s not how equitable sharing of profits works.
Now back to my discussion with my friend, I told him in my short stint as a criminal defence lawyer, I witnessed 2-3 cases of wife and children being suspects in murder of their own husband and father.The children were always the daughters, by the way. It’s not puzzling if you understand the dynamics of families in this community. It’s just like the Africans after they were tired of the imperialists’ regime, they resulted to brutal killing of the white settlers. The theory is that once a man has finished educating the children, he is of no more use and his death is planned from the day the last born hits Form one or finishes form four. .depending on the method use, slow death (read steel wire in food) or quick one eg planned burglary, planned car accidents, and easy death if the poor man got a lifestyle disease eg hypertension, stroke, diabetes, heart attacks, the family will withhold drugs ..😷😢
Though this is often viewed as a stereotype of Kabete women….you can see the roots of it from colonialism, exploitative practices during the good old days, greed, liberation practices that have been seen to work (Mau Mau worked, no?)
My point is I support Dr. Wandia point, that let’s to back to a village raising children, village owning land (community ownership), village sharing equitably the proceeds of the land, Ubuntu and parties in the afternoon till dawn. Yes that’s how we lived before colonists, we worked from 8-1, bathed, laid on grass, cooked supper, prepared for the party. There was a party each day, some days were for women only parties, children only parties, teenagers only, whole community parties, married people parties..yani there were themed parties each day…. 8-5 is a colonial labour concept.