This paper describes and analyzes the introduction of the women's voluntary self-help association movement (Maendeleo ya Wanawake
Movement) and its development among the Kipsigis people in the Kencho District, Kenya, on the basis of the author's field research.
Variety of cooperative works, having been popular among the Kipsigis, are generally called kipagenge
in their language. In Kenya, the Maendeleo ya Wanawake
Movement was formed in 1952 so that the womenfolk might economically maintain themselves and raise their status in the communities. The Movement seems to have been received at first as a variation of kipagenge
by the Kipsigis. In other words, the Kipsigis tried to positively respond to the Movement, modeling and developing it in the traditional paradigm of kipagenge
. In course of time, the Kipsigis word kipagenge
has become to denote usually the women's self-support association movement itself.
There are roughly two types of kipagenge
, pl.). One is a strong company-like association formed across traditional basic social organizations like kokwet, which is still the real base of the Kipsigis's everyday life. Since the membership is based on individual participation, this type of kipagenge
often lacks nuclear family groups, and is independent of the traditional authorities. This type of group tends to appreciate new types of political leaders. The other type retains the major traits of the traditional kipagenge
to attain and maintain the network of daily cooperative works and friendship among the members rather than the proper goal, i. e. women's self-help, that the Movement head office advocates. The members usually have strong familial ties with one another, and one or two nuclear family groups lead the association under the guidance of a family head, who is often of the traditional local authorities.
is rapidly becoming a new core of political alliance, in both an old fashion and an innovative manner, while providing the womenfolk with possibility of access to politics, on both local and national level, which formerly even the menfolk little dreamed of.