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Nelson, Nici (1978) Dependence and independence : Female household heads in Mathare Valley, a squatter community in Nairobi, Kenya. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis describes the lives of Kikuyu women heads of households living in the squatter community, Mathare Valley, in Nairobi Kenya. These women support themselves and their children by a combination of petty commodity production (basically beer brewing) and commercial sex. These migrants to the urban area have broken 'dependency relationships' with male relatives and affines in the rural area and have come to the city to support themselves. This can be seen as a process of women establishing themselves in the public domain in the urban area. A developmental model of a low income Mathare independent woman's urban career is constructed. First, women's socio-economic roles in traditional rural Kilmsru society, and the dependency relationships they were part of, are described. The factors which have led to the migration of single females to the city are outlined. Pinally, unmarried women's adaptation to life in Mathare is described in detail. They participate in certain types of urban economic activities. They are reorganizing their relationships with female relatives: mothers, daughters, and sisters. They foster their children with their rural-based mothers. They enter into new kinds of dependency relationships with men, which give women access to resources just as the old rural ones did, but allow the women greater choice and control over the relationships. Within Mathare women form friendship networks that are instrumental in the production of the illegal local beer, and protection from police activity directed towards controlling this industry. As each woman works out her urban strategy for survival in Mathare, there is discernable the emergence of new group values and ideas, particularly those that have to do with the roles of men and women, relationships between the sexes, and the institution of marriage. The role of ideology in explaining, and rationalizing social action is explored and the shifts in traditional Kikuyu ideology occurring among Mathare Kikuyu women are charted. New women's models and models for men are emerging which may operate to lessen cognitive dissonance resulting from the negative social image given Mathare women by the larger society. These ideological shifts may also play a role in the socialization of Mathare's children, and in the future formation of a general model of new possibilities for Kenyan women.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:01

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