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The Revolution That Led To the Evolution of Women

The Revolution That Led To the Evolution of Women

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Ijeoma Eke. Originally submitted for Must construct an argument about a particular world historical process, conflict, or pattern. at University of California, Berkeley, with lecturer Dr. Benjamin Klein in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Ijeoma Eke. Originally submitted for Must construct an argument about a particular world historical process, conflict, or pattern. at University of California, Berkeley, with lecturer Dr. Benjamin Klein in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
 
AbstractThis paper serves to illustrate that the Mau Mau Uprising that took place in Kenya not
only served to gain Kenya’s independence, but also helped transformed the role of women in
the Kikuyu society. This paper demonstrates how need for community unity in order to defeatthe British led to women having a more important role in their society. In order to demonstratethe change the role of women underwent, this paper begins by analyzing the role of womenprior to the uprising. Then, in order to demonstrate how the uprising is responsible for the role-change, this paper illustrates how the role of women changed in response to the needs of theuprising. This paper explains how the uprising led to sectors that traditionally excluded women(i.e. warfare, political arena, customs) to include them as integral actors. By demonstrating howthe change in the role of women in society corresponded with the change and needs of societybrought on by the Mau Mau uprising, this paper demonstrates how the Mau Mau uprisingconsequentially transformed the role of women.
 
 
The Revolution That Led To the Evolution of Women
In the 1950’s, in the Kikuyu society in Kenya
, women, were heard but not seen. Theimportance of women was not publicized and their contributions were made behind the privatewalls of their home. However, the Mau Mau Uprising, that took place in Kenya from 1952 to1960, not only paved the way for
Kenya’s
independence but also allowed women to surpass theboundaries that confined them to domestic roles and make crucial contributions to combat,politics, and the oath-taking ceremonies.
The stark contrast between women’s role prior
to andduring the uprising will demonstrate a dramatic change in the role of women. Women in Kikuyusociety were transformed from subordinates to equals capable of making monumentalcontributions to the Mau Mau Uprising,
and the Kikuyu’s fight for independence from British’s
control.Toward the end of the Mau Mau Uprising, on October 17, 1957, the Kenyan governmentappointed F.D. Corfield as the Government Commissioner. Corfield was hired to assess theorigin and growth of the Mau Mau Uprising including conditions that allowed for the uprising togain popularity without the knowledge of the government. Corfield, based on his historicalexamination, compiled his findings into
The Origins and Growth of Mau Mau: an Historical Survey 
. Corfield discovered that prior to British colonization, the Kikuyu people were engaged insouthward expansion. However, colonialism successful ended the southward expansion of theKikuyu and began the spread of western ideals. The British enacted a series of laws in order tostrengthen the Westernization of the Kikuyu. Reforms such as the Land Acquisition Act in 1896(allowed administration to confiscate land for the creation of railroads) and the Land Ordinance
 
 
of 1902 (allowed settlers to acquire land on a ninety-nine year lease)
1
set the stage for thefurther ordinances that disproportional allocated land to white settlers. The loss of land greatlyaffected the Kikuyu because they had a strong attachment to their land. Land provided a senseof social security
2
or stability for the Kikuyu people during the time when wages and tradingopportunities fluctuated. Pressure from the growing population and the lack of space to expandalso contributed to the Mau Mau Rebellion. The Kikuyu people were essentially transformedinto tenant workers or squatters
3
. The Kikuyu people had no rights or claim to the land theyfarmed and were given a patch of land and a minimal wage in exchange for a portion of theircrops. When the European settler
s demand for labor increased, the Kikuyu were mandated towork more days although their incomes significantly declined. Following the 1915-1918 warthat took place in Kenya, the newly educated and military trained Kikuyu people returned homeand began analyzing the grievances with their own people, laying the early foundation for theMau Mau Uprising. With hopes of defeating the British, the Mau Mau uprising required wide-support from the Kikuyu people, thus paving the way for women to move to the forefront andmake public contributions.Prior to the uprising, women were confined to stereotypical gender roles. The uprising,however, allowed women to surpass the domestic sphere and participate in the forefront of society. Even prior to colonization, the Kikuyu society was patriarchal. Women were confined tohomemaking tasks and other tasks defined within the private domain. The women wereconsidered the
custodians of the household
(Macharia and Kanyua 2006, 20), which included
1
Wunyabari O. Maloba,
Mau Mau and Kenya: An Analysis of a Peasant Revolt 
(Indianapolis: Indian University Press, 1993), 26.
2
F.D. Corfield,
The Origins and Growth of Mau Mau: An Historical Survey 
(Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, 1960), 11.
3
F.D. Corfield,
The Origins and Growth of Mau Mau: An Historical Survey 
(Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, 1960), 14.

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