Gender and property among sedentarized pastoralists of Northern Kenya
In the context of growing poverty and sedentarization, the socio-economic status of pastoral women is an important indicator of how pastoralists in northern Kenya respond to social change. Accordingly, this study examines women's position in three communities in distinct settings of sedentarization. One is located in a semi-arid region dedicated to pastoralism and conservation, while the other two are in a moister mountain area where rain-fed and irrigation agriculture is combined with animal production. Analyses of quantitative and qualitative data, gathered from women and men during 2002-2003, indicate that women have largely responded to social change by using two strategies to secure the well-being of themselves and their children. First, despite the cultural assumption that married women are supported by their husbands, they have strengthened their relationships with natal kin, solidifying a support network to carry them through times of difficulty. Secondly, given decline in returns from subsistence pastoralism, women have seized numerous opportunities to diversify their economic pursuits in order to generate steady income. Essentially, findings illustrate that, in addition to gaining access to various resources through their marital homes and their own efforts, the majority of women receive socio-economic support from their natal kin, especially brothers. In two communities where land is being privatized, most women have been excluded from the land registration process because of traditional and national policies. However, many fathers are awarding their daughters permanent usufruct rights to family land to ensure they do not become landless because of the death of a spouse or negligence on the part of husbands. Although this does not eliminate the discrimination many women face from 11 being excluded from the registration process, it is a move towards the betterment of women's long-term food and financial security. Besides contributing to domestic activities, women engage in very different forms of income-generating activities; in Archer's Post, they obtain earnings from craft sales or tourist-related services, in ParkishoniKarare they gain income from milk-marketing, while in Songa, women pursue cultivation for subsistence and market sale. It is a positive finding that most women generate steady income over which they have managed to maintain control.