Feminism is the belief that women should have equal rights as men in society. The society in The River and the Source is patriarchal (in favour of boys/men). We are told that:”If it was hard for a boy to get an education – it was well nigh impossible for a girl. The purpose of female existence was marriage and child bearing.”(P.129) this shows a disregard for women in society.
Women were expected to be submissive to men. Akoko becomes the first woman to challenge not only a man but a chief. Akoko’s resists Otieno’s attempts to squander her wealth by reporting him to the D.C in Kisumu. She even dares him to fight her. When Otieno threatens to assault her she looks him in the eyes and says, ‘just you dare!’(pg 37)
Gender inequality is seen when out of a class of thirty four, there are only two girls – one of whom is Awiti. The other girl gets married at the age of sixteen. It’s only through Akoko’s determination that Awiti is saved from such fate. Awiti is further seen to be exceptional as she maintains first position hence bringing out the success of women despite all odds. She thus wins the envy, admiration and even disapproval by some. Wandia beats all her classmates to emerge top in Anatomy. She goes on to become the first woman to acquire a PhD in Medicine.
Women play an important role in bringing up children. As a teacher Awiti manages the children back at Aluor during the emergency without Mark. Awiti is brought up without a father and she is saved from the traditional practices of marriage at seventeen through “the pioneering and daring spirit of her grandmother and mother.” (pg 129) Wandia’s mother has single-handedly managed to educate all her children. She is very proud of her daughter, Wandia, who becomes a doctor.
Women play the role of giving birth to new generations. This leads to the continuity of ‘the river’. Akoko’s male children die with only Nyabera surviving. Despite not getting a son, Nyabera gets grandchildren through her only surviving child – Awiti.
Women empowerment and feminism continues and gathers momentum through the different generations. Wandia’s generation sees women taking up positions of power. For example, Wandia becomes Professor and is appointed the Chairperson of the Department of Pathology in the University of Nairobi’s School of Medicine.
From the text, identify other roles played by women in society.