In the document 2. 2, Facing Mount Kenya, Kenyatta describes the division of labor in Gikuyu families as the women do the housework, weaving, and all the aspects of cooking, including bringing the water in; men plow the fields and do the majority of that hard labor in the village [Strayer, pg. 74]. The marriage practices in these families are that men can have as many wives as he can support and all women must be married between the ages of 15 and 20. It was seen that men were the protectors and if a woman wasn’t married than she was not protected, so it was unheard of to have unmarried women.
To me it sounds like the society was more of a patriarchy, even though they shared the work load between the two genders the women did not hold leadership positions in the society. The men on the other hand had several stages they went through to obtain leadership and power in the community. Men would go through five different councils in their lifetime. The first is after a man is circumcised; he is then recognized as a man and has full citizenship. After the circumcision is healed he enter into the nation council of junior warriors, which he is given a weapon and taught the basics of being a warrior.
The second warriorhood is twelve rain seasons or eighty-two moons after the circumcision. At this point he enter into the council of the senior warriors, there was not much description of this councils besides the initiation fee of two goats or sheep, I am assuming that this would be the council were they are the warriors of the society since the council of junior warriors was just preparing them. The third council is the council of elders or kiama. A man enters into kiama when they marry and create their own home. He helps the elders with food and hard labor.
The fourth is when a man’s son or daughter come of age to be circumcised, I’m not sure if it was a mistype, they were talking about just the age of the daughter, or they were one of the societies that did a type of surgery on the women, this is the council of peace. When a man reaches this council they are the peacemakers of the society. The fifth and last council is the religious and sacrificial council, a man obtains this when all of his children are circumcised and his wife or wives are no longer fertile. They are the high priests of the community at that point.
These councils defined the system that was called age-set system. The age-set system shared power equally among their people and was hard to argue with since it was clearly defined and gave each man an important task amongst the community. This system had many advantages for them since like I said before it had important tasks for everyone and it showed respect for the elders in the community. The disadvantage would be that if the men had differing views about something their were a large number of men to decide on one thing, so it might take longer to decide.
Their lives were simple and organized and Kenyatta showed this very well in this document. The message that I got from Kenyatta was that though he lived in a colonial setting, a definition of society was established and though their power was not divided as a formal state or government, issues got resolved and life in the community were organized and stable. I think that this society was very elder respected and I think sometimes societies lose sight of that. Every government and society has positives and negatives. There is no such thing as a perfect system.