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The Hard Life of A Karimojong Woman

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Betty Nachugae, a mother of five admits that no woman in Karamoja can complain of being overloaded with work because they are used to it. "We play our role as our mothers did. In fact, we are used to this although women from other regions keep wondering the way we live," she notes.
18 Dec 2020 13:18
Karimojong woman with her kid in Moroto taking firewood to sale indorder to get some money for buying food
Her day begins at 5.30 am each day. She picks up her naked baby and places him on her back before rushing to the nearest borehole or well, about three kilometers away for water.  

On her return from collecting water, she hopes that the wood she lit in the wilderness the previous night to get charcoal will be finally ready for the market. When in the forest, she ignores the cloud of smoke still coming out of the heap and starts gathering small pieces of wood that never burnt and ties them in a bundle. She goes ahead to gather grass to mend the rooftop of her house later in the day. 

Once set with her child strapped on her back and charcoal on her head, Grace Angolere starts walking to the trading Centre 17 kilometers away to earn bread for her family. On a good sale, the charcoal fetches her between Shillings 10, 000 to 17,000, some of which she uses to buy half a kilogram of beans, maize flour and a "tot" of paraffin.

She uses some of the money to buy tobacco for snuffing and then gives her husband the rest of the money for his social evening mainly local brew. With the day gone trying to fend for the family, she has but one prayer; that he doesn't get very drunk and beat her up that night.

In a society where the women fend for their families, nothing seems more natural than Angolere's day.  And the pastoral nature of Karamoja and Turkana has handed women the responsibility to cater for the basic and essential needs of the family while men take to raids and security matters.

Karimojong men save their energy all day long relaxing under trees as they prepare to go for cultural raids and safeguard their homesteads from external attacks from their counterparts in Kenya, the Turkana, and internally from the neighbouring hostile clans.

Joyce Nakut, one of the local women in Karamoja, says they are used to the way they live.  "Once you're born a woman and get married here, you take on the responsibility of taking care of your family," she said. adding that “It’s not a surprise to us because it's in our minds, to wake up early in the morning with an axe trek into the bushes cut down trees for charcoal, burn so that we sell and get something to feed our families, as our husbands get busy with looking after our livestock," she said adding, "that is what our culture says and that is how we have been brought up."  

Betty Nachugae, a mother of five admits that no woman in Karamoja can complain of being overloaded with work because they are used to it. "We play our role as our mothers did. In fact, we are used to this although women from other regions keep wondering the way we live," she notes.

Nachugae reveals that many women in Karamoja survive on one meal a day and the wild fruits they gather from the bush for breakfast. While she is resigned to their lifestyle, like other Karimojong women, Nachugae still hopes that the gender roles will change and education, water and climatic conditions will improve to change their lives and standard of living.