Women, marketplaces and exchange partners amongst the Marakwet of northwest Kenya

Tot valleyDavies, Matthew I.J., Moore, Henrietta L., and Pollard, Grace. (2015) ‘Women, marketplaces and exchange partners amongst the Marakwet of northwest Kenya.’ Journal of Eastern African Studies 9(3)

Based on recent fieldwork, this paper examines the intersecting economic activities of Marakwet women in northwest Kenya with a particular focus on exchange friendships. We highlight the need to expand previous definitions of tilia, based on male exchange of livestock, to include a variety of exchange friendships including those between women. Through investigating women’s economic activities in local marketplaces, we demonstrate that marketplaces facilitate the formation of tilia partnerships between women from different areas, and shape women’s kinship and friendship interactions within the context of their market activities. We argue that there is a synergy between women’s market activities and exchange relationships, but we also emphasise that market activities and tiliaexchange relationships are part of the matrix of household economic decision-making navigated by Marakwet women. This has important implications for how we view and support the social and economic contributions of women’s activities. Women’s tilia relations provide a number of benefits to their trading activities, households and communities, and as such we suggest that rural development interventions would do well to consider and build upon these networks of exchange relations.

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