Kenya glossary


(KENYA 10)












November 1996



Section 1
Start by telling us your name.
My name is Anne Sile.

Which year were you born?
I was born in 1949.

1949, were you staying here or somewhere else?
I was born in Transzoia.

Which place?

You got married here?
Yes, I got married here.

Where did you go to school?
I never got any form of education.

Were there schools in those days?
There were schools but my family had fee problems. My father could not take me to school because my younger and elder brother and sisters were going to school and I acted as their mother. So the elder ones went to school and the younger ones remained in the middle.

Was it you who was taking care of them?
Yes, I was taking care of them. We had lost our mother.

So you were their caretaker. When were you married?
In 1967.

How was life, first your husband's name?
My husband’s name was Raphael Sile.

Which is your own name?
My childhood name is Ann Teng'ene.

Ann Teng'ene. Does it have any meaning?
Section 2
What does it mean?
It means you were born very tiny.

Is it in Sabaot?
It is in Sabaot.

Was your husband staying these sides when you got married?

What was he doing?
He was teaching.

He was a teacher in what school?
A school in Kongit.

The place we passed. Can you now explain your life together, when you got your first child, how was life those days?
I got my first child in 1969, the month of September.

How were you staying, how was life?
It was not bad. It was good. I was personally pleased with it between that time. There had been no quarrel.

When did you get your second child?
In 1971

Did you have a house here and where were you staying?
We were staying at this time in a place called Chepkalelia. So he could commute from here to school.

And what were you doing?
I used to farm, look after cattle, cooking and taking care of the children. I also took care of my husband.

Were you ploughing your own land?
We were ploughing using oxen.

Your husband had them?
We had a lot of cattle.

So you could plough and then plant?
Yes, here, you can use oxen to plant, they plough then you turn it. Then you take the seeds and follow the oxen as they plough.
Section 3
Then it covers it?

For how long did you stay before you got children and which number?
We were getting children after every year. The third child was in 1972. The fourth in 1974, the fifth in 1976 and the last in 1978.

Was family planning education around?
Yes, it came at that time and saved me.

When did you loose your husband?
In 1980

The last born was two years old?
No, one and a half years but had I not planned, I would have had another one.

Where were you taught about family planning?
We were taught in Kapsokwony

In Kapsokwony, is it your husband who told you to go or it was your own decision?
He used to go and then he came and asked me. I was enthusiastic about that because it could help me rest and regain energy to work and take care of the children.

So you went with him.
We went together

He wasn't against it as I have heard the others say?
You see, he was a person who was a bit learned. Perhaps it would have been me to refuse but I quickly fell for the idea.

Was your husband sick before he died or what happened?
He just died a sudden death. He left home okay, he took tea, by noon the disease struck him down.

Had he gone to school?
He had gone to school.

What class was your first born then?
Standard six.

From that time, what have you done to educate them?
In the power of God, I tried very much because he gave me energy, when I was left [alone]. I did not have a job and I had no education but God gave me education. I educated my children through farming. I used to farm. If I get beans, I sell and take to school and even maize. I could plant beans twice a year until they finished.

Were they learning?
He was in St.Joseph's Kitale, and for a while in Secondary school, he went to Kiliboni.
Section 4
Where is Kiliboni?
In Nandi and from there, he went to form five in a school in Kericho called Leti and completed form six and went to the university. I am blessed.

How were you doing it?
I plant beans and sell but spare some for the children to eat. I sell and pay fees.

How much were the fees?
Fees were very low those days. It wasn't over six thousand.

So you could sell until you get six thousand?
Yes, I could just farm four acres of land. Beans take two acres of land, maize takes two acres for food, the rest for grazing. We also had some cattle.

You could get around how many bags?
I was farming without fertiliser and I could get six bags per acre, but I was not using fertiliser though I knew that it was there.

How can someone farm without using fertiliser?
It is okay as long as you plough well. Even now, I have planted wheat and I have not used any fertiliser, but I stay at the furthest end, even the soil there is different from this one.

Which place?

Chepkeleli. What difficulties do you encounter since your husband’s death?
There are difficulties because doing work for two people is hard. However putting God before everything makes it easier. He gives you all the skills and he helped me. I have not suffered saying why...why...the father of my children is dead. I have tried to take good care of them.

Did you see any difficulties in being asked things that the children had got used to asking their father? Now that their father is dead, do they ask you things you were not used to being asked?
That is there but since I used to put God first, my children could ask me, to buy for them clothes. I will buy for them and the money comes from farming. They wait for a year and I buy for them clothes. They get their tea normally. They have never missed. They get soap, uniform and their school fees, I have paid. I have paid even for those in primary school. That is how God has helped me. What I did was, I did not want my children to suffer just because their father is dead. No! No! I tried very much to see that they stay well so that they are not reminded of their dead father.

Are there people who after seeing that there is no head of a family, come to quarrel with you? Have you had problems like those ones?
I have heard problems like those ones but what I did was, I went to the government which helped me. Like the brothers of my late husband were disturbing me, but when I went to the village headman, he told them not to interfere with that lady. Let her take care of her children. God had taken care of that. But that can only happen if the mother is a drunkard. I was just doing my work. They came to discover that the lady can take care of the children, so they left me.
Section 5
And neighbours?
No! No!

Nobody was interfering?
No! No!

Were there people who could offer help knowing that you were widow and that you needed help?
There were people like my neighbour when I ask for help like in ploughing, they gave me their oxen and ploughed for me. I only had to buy seeds to plant. Initially, I had oxen but I sold them because I needed fees for my children.

You were selling them to get fees?
Yes, I used to teach double two, two. Two go in form one like that. So even if I farm, I had to add cattle to educate them.

They could meet in the class.
In the same class and they joined together.

You said your first born finished school. What about the second on, where did he go to school?
I used the same method as with the other, farming.

Which school?
In Kapsabet girls.

Could you explain in advance how you would be paying in bits?
Yes, or I pay like during the harvest coming once a year. So when she goes in January. I pay for a whole year then I only sent a small pocket money now and then.

And girls have many needs at school?
Those ones have a high budget, they ask for everything but I could try as much to give them.

Is she through with education?
She is through. She completed a long time ago.

A long time ago?
She works as a secretary with another Indian in Eldoret.

The rest are still in secondary school?
My form four children are through and they have all been blessed with jobs. The third is a teacher, the fourth born who is a girl is working with identity cards.
Section 6
It is hard to say that. In total, I have six children. Two are now in form four.

The ones completing now.
The ones finishing now. I think the boy is finishing today. I think he ought to come tomorrow.

After the two are through, you will rest a bit?

Unless they join the university.
That might be our only problem.

How is life? How is life without a husband?
These days I am okay because there were days when I used to find it hard. But now, I have discovered that a woman can stay and care of children. That is true because your husband is dead and it is not good for a person to go enjoying Ooh! Ooh! I tried every method and with the power of God. If it is farming then farm, if it is business, do it. Because he or she is the parent to take care of these children. This is as long as one of you remains. You see both of you can die at the same time.

You told me your mother died very early in life. Did that teach you something?
That taught me a lot and when this happened to me, I actually got used to taking care of children so I did not find it hard. I did not find it hard because when my mother died, my father was employed for one month, that is what made me not go to school because in the absence of my father there was nobody to take care of the children. So I started knowing that work. I farmed, I planted vegetables for them, everything. Now when this came, I already knew my work.

Can you explain to me what you used to do after your mother's death? How did you take care of the children?
Taking care of the children, I used to cook, wash them and after they ate, they would go to play. I then would take my jembe (hoe) to go and plant vegetables. I was planting everything. I planted vegetables, sweet potatoes, cassava, everything, even onions. Someone would have thought there was a mother but there was none.

Who was teaching you all these?
There was nobody since I was the eldest girl. If I saw a neighbour planting vegetables, I would also take a jembe and go to plough. I would then ask my father for seeds and he gave me some. If it was cassava stems, I went to borrow from the neighbours, “Please help me plant?” They then broke some for me and I planted. So the children were just happy. I took care of them until they read well. Even the lady who is my follower completed university and now she is the headmistress of Kibuk.
Section 7
They got used to calling you mother?
Yes, even now, she still calls me mother.

You started being a mother at an early age!
When I was very young.

They told you your problems before you presented them to your father.
If I see a sick child, I tell my father the child is sick, or father today there is no soap. I would just represent them like that.

Those lessons helped you very much.
That is how I managed to stay after my husband's death.

Now like that time, small children are very stubborn. How old was your father's last born?
One year when our mother died.

How did you handle that?
I would just entice it. If it cried, I gave it food and those days we did not have enough food. It was mostly ugali (food stuff made from maize/sorghum flour and hot water) or sweet potatoes. We would even go without tea. We would only have it if we had luck. I would entice it until it grew up and went to class one. They all went to school but too bad, I had passed the stage of going to school. I just took care of them.

Looking at them these days, what do they say?
They know me as their mother.

And the young one, what did you say in case they asked you where their mother was?
Like the day our mother died, it really disturbed me. It (the youngest child) would ask where mum is. I would say that she had gone for a journey and that when she came back, she would bring us sweets. I lied to it for two days and then it forgot.

It got used?
It got used to me as a mother.

Had it passed the age of suckling?
Yes, it was one year. My mother was the type who bore children very fast because she died when she was expecting. When they were operating on her, there was the next child.

What can you tell other widows about your experience?
This is what I would like to tell my fellow widows that if their husbands are dead, let them not just sit idle because their husbands are dead. They will end up sleeping hungry. If they do that, they will loose their young ones. She might eat while roaming but the children will suffer. If the mother is a businesswoman, let her do business. Let her do business so that she can educate their children, and if she is a farmer, let her farm and take care of the children so that they can eat and learn well.
Section 8
There are people who say that women can not do this or that. Now that you have managed to take care of your family, what can you say about the ability of women?
They are beginning to understand these days before if the husband...Before if the husband died, his brother would come to help. Personally, I thought that that was useless. He would come, eat everything and then go away after finishing. He would have his own burden. Many of them have come to talk to me wanting to know how I stay. This is how I live because when your husband dies, he does not go away with anything. He will leave for you everything plus even his clothes. All you have to know is how to take care of the children, educating them, because without education, it is bad.
It was unfortunate for us who missed education but we stay and advise. But others, I also feel like advising men too because it is not good to take everything and leave your wife stupid. When you die, your wife will suffer not knowing where to go. Like when you are still young, give your wife a piece of land to plough. Tell your wife to farm. If there is money, give her to plough. Try to check out if she can do the work or not. You will be building her in a way because it may be just by passing that the wife might die first or the husband first. You will already have children and you need to discipline the children. But if you are both firm, the children will be okay. There is no day I have told my children I am lacking this your father is dead. No way!

What then can you tell those who say women can not run things independently?
Independence, when a woman takes vegetable to sell in the market, they tell her no, this woman is roaming around. That is bad, one day when you go, you will leave her with problems. I got the skill early because I took my mother's place early so it got me when I was ready. So when I meet widows, I tell them there is no need to cry because he has gone alone and he has carried nothing along.

Personally, what do you think makes women say they can not be independent, what makes them say that?
I think, I do not know but maybe because they are used to staying with their husbands. She might even be having property but she does not know how to take care of that property. I have seen many women who have been cheated. Someone comes in claiming that he can help her but ends up eating everything and offering her no help. He will say, sell this cow so that we can do this. After they sell the cow, he eats the money and it is the children who end up suffering. There is nothing that he is helping. He is only looking for a way to eat, that is why I am telling them to take care of their wealth. Like me, even when I wanted to sell cattle, I would tell my in-laws, I never refused to tell them to come and witness. I told them that my children had to go to school and the cattle had been sold because of fees. After I sold the cow, I took the money straight to the school. There was no chance left for them to squander the money.
It all depends on the foolishness of the woman. There are those who are unable to and I have seen those who are totally not able to manage. Sometimes when I get time, I go there and advise her. If she can use my advice, she benefits.
Section 9
You have stayed for a long time without a husband. What is the problem facing the women? What do people say when they see you developing without a husband?
There are some who say that you have done well. There are others who say that you persevered and other who say you rule with arrogance and that you rule your home. I tell them no and because that is given, there are those who will abuse you. They will say that women these days are arrogant. All you have to do is to persevere and go ahead with your work. But nowadays, I can see respect creeping in. They say “How are you, mum?” after seeing what you have done is not insignificant.

Considering that you take care of your own home, has there been any change of how people view women now that they have seen what you have done?
These days it is like news. In funerals they say you see how that mother lives, we want this home to be like that. Still there is a problem, because some mothers can not stay. It is hard for them. People cheat them with worldly things. It is the worldly things that spoil their work, their children suffer, and children will ape the bad behaviour of their mother. That is why I took care in that area. I tell my fellow widows, to take care in that area. If your children see you doing bad things, it is you who is there teacher and you are teaching them to follow that line. They will follow that bad habit. I pray that if a woman is a beer drinker and she has been left by her husband, she should leave the beer and join the word of God. They should go to church so that they raise their children in a religious way. Their children will be very good, very good.

Did you encounter any problems? Maybe you could find your children quarrelling over something?
I held my children right there, down.

They were friendly to each other?
Yes even up to now, our people say that maybe when they were many is when conflict arises but right now there are no quarrel. They love each other when they are in the house, they say that they want to know this. We just talk we have no problem, we plan work together.

Is there anything you can tell women in general about independence of women?
Yes, I have tried very much both in groups and churches telling them it is good to find a way of taking care of your needs in the house, not just depending on your husband. Your husband is also supposed to depend on you. You are the head of the family.