Being in-Between – the Women's Movements in Kenya

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Antje DANIEL, University of Bayreuth, Germany
Since independence from British colonialism female activists have been coopted by government. First women’s movements, independent from government, emerged in the 1980s. For those, the UN World Women Conference, held 1985 in Nairobi, provided impulses for creating movements working in the field of women’s human rights. Insofar, the transnational event legitimized the movement in a closed political society. In the 1980s, women’s activists also became part of the democratic movement, which fought against the autocratic regime. Since this time the Kenyan women’s movement is an important opponent, holding the government accountable for its actions.

Against the backdrop of definitions about new social movements the paper illustrates that western concepts cannot be applied to southern movements without restrictions. At the same time context related features of the women’s movement in Kenya become obvious. Especially the concepts of in-betweenness of the women’s movement relates to the specific social and political context in which the movement is engaged: First, the in-betweenness reflects the social structure: While mostly middle class activists deciding about the strategy of the movement, women from lower classes often do not feel represented. Second, the in-betweenness refers to the sense of collective identity within the movement. Activists are navigating between ethnic-political loyalties and their female identity, while the former hampers a collective belonging at times. This point relates to the third aspect of in-betweenness: The movement acts as broker between the political system and the society and thereby takes over party functions. Therefore, the in-betweenness of the women’s movement refers the challenges the movement face in the movement building process and the role of the movement as mediator between the society and the state. At the same time the in-betweenness illustrates the particular context in which the movement operates and shows restrictions of definitions about social movements.