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Retired Civil Servant/ Electoral co-ordinator




November 1996


The main interest in this interview is that the narrator Lois Chesiriken Psenjen was one of the first female senior civil servants. Unfortunately her responses are rather guarded, as if she is concerned not to step out of her civil service line, and she rarely provides us with any glimpse into her personal feelings. Nevertheless, she voices some interesting opinions on women’s public roles: “…I think women are not afraid of anything nowadays. They are aware of their rights to compete, since interviews are not for choosing only a particular kind of person…One should try and have confidence in being able to win, as there is no obstacle since all men and women's brains are equal.”

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Section 1-2  Her educational and work history.
Section 2  Development in Mount Elgon – poor roads and transport problems.
Section 3  Brief discussion of the recent clashes, though the narrator declares her ignorance of the subject and seems reluctant to talk about them. Women’s groups – many men’s initial antipathy towards them.
Section 4  Modern and traditional family planning: “According to our culture, family planning issues were not supposed to be spoken about openly in a meeting. They were considered private and indecent.”
Section 4-5  Girls and boys education – priority is given to boys, particularly when money is short. But “very few parents can ignore girls’ education when there is money.” Circumcision doesn’t impede a girl’s education as it is performed in the holidays. Case of a girl who was forced into marriage.
Section 5-6  Ill-equipped hospitals; poor access to medicine
Section 6  Difficult access to water for some, and examples of community water projects.
Section 7  Division of labour: women do more work; men drink the traditional beer.
Section 7-8  ActionAid’s work in the region. Again, reluctance on the narrator’s part to evaluate ActionAid’s role.
Section 8-10  How the narrator entered the civil service. Increase of women in the civil service. Belief that women should be self-confident enough to apply for the jobs they want.
Section 10-11  The significance of Mount Elgon to the local people. Wild animals still to be found in certain areas.
Section 11-12  Different Christian faiths in the region.
Section 12-13  Significance of circumcision. “Due to seminars held against women’s circumcision many girls are now against it, but there are some that feel that they should be circumcised. Some refuse because they are now old enough and have known that their circumcision has no meaning. Those who are clever have agreed with their parents not to do so. Boys actually do look down upon those girls who are uncircumcised.” Instances of forced circumcision on girls. Seventh Day Adventist Church trying to ban female circumcision
Section 13  Initial importance of seclusion period after the circumcision ceremony to teach girls and boys about their future roles. This was the grandmother’s responsibility. Nowadays the seclusion period has been drastically cut, and it is up to parents, the Church, and school to teach the young about social customs.
Section 14  Circumcision songs.
Section 15  The forest: the Sabaot are settling there illegally. “At the moment, the government is searching for a resettlement place for them. The government wants to preserve the forest and it is not a place for people to build houses and stay.”
Section 16  Transport and farming methods. Areas of Mount Elgon “naturally fertile”.