Stages and lessons to Turkana girls

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Just like any other African community, Women in the Turkana society have distinct roles majorly based on supporting and implementing the family duties. They played a very vital role in conducting the house chores alongside cultural and economic activities as stipulated by the Turkana social norms. However, the most tasking duty to a Turkana woman is a moral upbringing of the girl child that started right from birth to the age of marriage. A Turkana woman earned a lot of respect from the community when handing a morally upright girl to marriage while negligence to transform and instruct the daughters was a failing task to accomplish. In such a case, a woman would be rendered irresponsible and lost respect among other women in the entire community.

According to the Turkana community, girls did not have Age groups unlike men whose Age groups were attached to events that occurred during that time of initiation. However, girls were Traditionally put into eight categories that formed the basic life-stages known as ajore/ngajorei as they grew. These life stages(ngajorei) were;

  1. Ngaterechin
  2.  Ngadam-dama Kuja
  3. Ngabuwa
  4. Ngamediareng
  5. Ngamediapus
  6. Ngatumakadelio
  7. Tanaurolos
  8. Talopuk-puk

The first stage that was referred to as ngaterechin comprised of girls from 2 years to 5 years and the second stage or ngadam-dama kuja ranged from 6 years to 9 nine years, were less committed to the matters of the society but sometimes helped the elder girls with house chores. The Third group was referred to as Ngabuwa, whose ages ranged from 10 years to 14 years. Their main duties involved the house chores, fetching water, collecting firewood, and looking after young ones.

Ngamediareng formed the fourth group of girls whose ages were between 15 years to 18 years. These compromised adolescent girls whose roles were a bit complicated as compared to the third group. Their roles were majorly based on art. They curved household utensils, learned the art of hair weaving, beads, and skin tanning skills, construction of fence and hut, bore-hole digging as well as watering the livestock. Since these girls were ready for marriage, self-made ornaments making skill was very crucial.  During this stage, the girls were considered to be ready for marriage and were adorned with attractive ornaments that would catch the eyes of the suitors. At that stage, the girls were taught to be hard-working for it was considered paramount by the suitor’s family.

Another group consisted of the young married ladies whose age ranged from 19 years to 23 years of age which formed the fifth group known as Ngamediapus. Since the group comprised of the young married ladies, they were expected not to behave in a manner that would suggest attracting Men instead lived a life that reflected a well behaved and responsible house wife. Ngamediapus had a number of duties assigned to them and thus were not supposed to be idle or show laziness. The Sixth stage was that of Ngatumakadelio. Their age ranged from 24 years to 28 years. The group was made of advanced age of matured Girls but not married and did not have. Traditionally, these girls were supposed to be married with a number of children.  Once a girl reached that stage, she was seen as less attractive to men or the behavior or self-presentation not appealing to men. As the stage was associated with bad omen, the parents would seek consultation from the fortune tellers known as Ngimurok for remedy. Ngatumakadelio were treated same as the seventh stage known as Tanaurolos whose age ranged from 27 years to 30 years. The group was considered no longer admired by men and lived as spinsters.

The Eighth stage was known as Talopuk-puk whose age were 30 years and above. These were the concubines, Girls who were not married but had children outside wedlock(apese angabwes/ngapesur angabwes) and lived with their parents. This group consisted of girls who were possibly forced to do so by the parents in order to get children for them or the boyfriends were not in a position to marry them for one reason or another.

Finally, as culture demanded, the traditional Turkana mother was tasked with the responsibilities of ensuring that the daughters were well instructed and guided;

  • To adorn enough Beads and ornaments.
  • To prepare Front apron(adwol) and Behind Apron(abwo).
  • To respect Men and Elders to avoid curses but admired for marriage due to Self-respect and perfect presentation in front of Men.
  • To avoid Eating in presence of Men.
  • To stand when talking to Men as a sign of great respect.
  • To avoid sitting on a chair, for the chairs belonged to Men.
  • To kneel down when serving Men, a sign of Honor that would attract men.
  • To respond promptly when called upon or asked something by Men or Elders so as to avoid hate or being despised.
  • To take care of the young ones, to be a good co-worker in absence of the Mother.
  • To help other Girls in Homestead duties such as constructing Main Fence, Digging water Bore-Holes and watering the Livestock
  • To attend to visitors.
  • Attending and serving Visitors

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