The community where building the family hut is a wife's job

Gabbra women unite to repair a hut 'moved'[ by a strong wind at Shankera manyatta in North Horr, Marsabit County on September 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Moraa Obiria | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  •  Bone Boya Racha, a resident of North Horr,  says it is the sole responsibility of the wife to build the family hut, in her Gabbra community.
  • Most of the women work with babies on their backs.
  • The women always come together to support one of their own in the building process.

In between Hurri and Shankera hills in North Horr, Marsabit County, sits a file of dome huts.

But the strong winds have broken the chain. They “moved” one of the huts belonging to Bone Boya Racha.

But the burden of repairing it does not solely fall on her. It’s a shared responsibility at least according to her Gabbra community.

On this mid-morning Thursday, we find her with a group of women braving the hot and windy weather, to do the work.

Most of the women have back carried their infants. Armed with a hand-made pickaxe, two digging bars and a wedge, they repair the hut one step at a time.

Bone Boya Racha, owner of the hut under repair, joined by other  women to fix it in this Shankera manyatta in North Horr, Marsabit County on September 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Moraa Obiria | Nation Media Group

On the ground are littered narrow pliable poles, sisal ropes and old kangas. Theirs is a manifestation of unity of purpose.

The poles would be intertwined and fastened with ropes to make the wall and roof. The roof would then be covered with the sisal and the half of the wall would be enclosed in kangas.

Kabale Golo Barile, one of the women hits the ground with a digging bar, but the soil is too solid to make a hole. She hits again, nothing. She then gets a stone and tamps the blunt end of the digging bar. Still, she makes little progress.

She stands and fetches a wedge and water in a 500ml container behind her. She pours water into the spotted ground to soften the soil and hits the digging bar with the wedge. She hits and pauses. After a couple of hits, she makes a hole to which she fits the pole.

“When we do it together, the work becomes lighter and we enjoy it,” says Ms Kabale.

Ms Bone, the hut owner says, in her community, it is the sole responsibility of the wife to build a hut.

“We do it (build the hut) communally,” she says as she picks up her son who is crying for her attention.

She says they started the work at 6am and they would be done by 6pm.

By the time we are leaving in the afternoon, they have fixed the roof and wall, and they are tightening the poles with the ropes.



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