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Women 'beasts of burden' as men carry only walking sticks

Women from Lopii village, Turkana East, fleeing their village after it was raided by bandits on December 30, 2021. [Courtesy]

In most families in the Contemporary world, a man is always regarded as a provider and protector of women.

Man, is always there to provide help to his spouse and relief her from daily chores in the family to enhance comfort.

However, among the strong cultural heritage of the pastoral Turkana community, their case is totally different in the way their wives are treated.

Turkana culture does not allow a man to carry any luggage or be seen helping his wife because it is taboo.

A man in Turkana is only allowed to carry a walking stick and traditional stool known as ‘Ekicholong’ while walking with his wife.

David Ng’ikadelio 35, a resident of Loyo village in Turkana Central sub-County says when a man seen carrying luggage, he is considered insane and can be avoided in the community by men for not following the cultural set-up.

“We embrace our culture, since we were born and grew up, we knew that carrying luggage is a woman’s responsibility and a man should not be seen doing such,” explained Ng’ikadelio.

When a man is found carrying luggage to help his wife, he is summoned by elders to a clan’s meeting to explain why he did so.

Charles Lorogoi, popularly known as ‘Ekori Kapana’ is the chair of Turkana Council of Elders and he says such a man is considered ‘to have been oppressed by his wife’ which is also a taboo.

Turkana culture does not allow a man to carry any luggage or be seen helping his wife. [Mike Ekutan, Standard]

“Our culture is straight forward and we cannot bend it at all.

“There is no problem with a woman carrying the whole luggage. It is their responsibility and they are used to it,” Lorogoi said.

He added that there is no Turkana woman who understands the culture who has ever lamented over being told to carry all the luggage.

He says they are aware that they are acting in accordance with the cultural requirements and that they can let their husbands carry only walking sticks known as ‘Aburo’ and ‘Ekicholong’ which is a stool for men.

Sylvia Ngasike, a resident of Kakwanyang village in Turkana said they don’t feel mistreated because that is the norm.

“We have never complained because we know our roles as women and it is disrespectful to ignore culture. There are always risks if they are ignored,” said Ngasike.

A woman, according to Turkana culture is not allowed to walk side by side with her husband. 

The man is supposed to be in front, followed by the woman carrying water for the man and any other luggage including a baby.

Gabriel Loyangan from Loima says the role of a man according to Turkana culture is to look after livestock while his wife takes care of her his welfare and that includes looking for food.

“A woman should struggle to ensure her man has something to eat in the evening after grazing the livestock,” he said.

Turkana people living in the interior are still embracing this culture but some who are exposed have started ignoring it.