“He makes our village safe”

By Mary Mukami
Daraja Academy commentator

The name of my chief is John Karanja. He is about 70 years old and he has seven sons and three daughters. He is an intelligent, wise and learned man.

The role of a chief in our community is to make sure the villagers get the resources provided by the government such as clothes, food and items to build a house. The chief also settles disputes among the people such as land and family issues. He makes sure our village is safe.

Chief Karanja is of great help to girls and women. First, he does not tolerate people who look down upon women and see them as if they can do nothing in the community, yet they can do a lot. Second, he is very strict to sex offenders such that they cannot escape without being punished in jail. Third, he does not allow men to humiliate women in our village.

Chief Karanja is fair and kind such that he offers credit to young girls so they can go to school. He provides loans to family to send their daughters to school and the parents pay back their debt once they have the money. He is also concerned about students getting bursaries (government school funds for children from poor backgrounds).

“A woman chief would do better”

By Bilha Akoth
Daraja Academy commentator

Most Kenyan communities still value the chiefdom and take it as an important institution of solving conflicts. The chief in my community is a man I call an uncle (Bob Ouma) because he and my father are from the same father though different mothers. Throughout my entire life, I have only seen him as a chief, and no one else has ever taken the position.

When I asked my father why the position of the chief has not been changed, his answer was clear and to the point: his father was a chief and there had to be a successor from the family. By then, chiefdom was hereditary; the oldest son became the chief. Some lucky women have managed to be assistant chiefs under the appointment of the male chiefs.

There are cases of mistreating widows, raping women and young girls, and threatening of lives in my community, but the chief is sometimes reluctant to respond to these issues. In 2009, a herds boy raped an 11-year-old girl and inserted a knife into the girl’s private parts. When our able chief was informed, he actually blamed the girl’s parents for employing such a person. He appointed men to look for the herds boy and when he was brought before the chief, he reprimanded the herds boy and told him that he was to be responsible for the girl’s funeral program. The mother did not have much to do because the power was on the chief’s hands. This was the only punishment the herds boy was given.

The chief’s home is fenced with barbed wires so it is difficult to reach him without going through the gate, which is far from the house. He has cattle, which are being herded by his young sons during the holidays. His elder son is only 13-years-old, a fact that makes it difficult for him to effectively take good care of his father’s cattle. Sometimes the cattle break into the neighboring widow’s homestead and feed on her crops. Normally, the woman would report the incident to the chief. But in this case, where the chief is also the offender, the woman has little recourse. In the past he threatened to beat the widow if she made a fuss about his behavior.

Because of these situations, I’m convinced we should have a woman chief. My chief is clearly not very well conversant with issues affecting females. This is a problem because the chief should be a source of protection to the vulnerable people such as girls and women.

I think a chief who is a woman can do better in my village because she would be more interested in issues affecting girls and women.