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Title: Organisational Networks of Kenyan Female Migrants in England: The Humble Chama Now Operating at Higher International Levels
Authors: Kitetu, Catherine
Keywords: Kenyan Women
Issue Date: 2014
Abstract: The term Chama’ (and its plural chamas) simply means ‘group’, it is a term that has been used widely in Kenya to refer mainly to women’s groups. In the chama, the women meet regularly to discuss issues affecting them and also contribute money which they give each member in-turn to alleviate monetary problems. The chama time is also used as a way of bonding together of the members. The concept of the chama has been there since time immemorial but has not been part of Government official discourse or recognition. (Presently, there are large groups or co-operatives made of men and women, patterned on the concept of chama which are official), but the smaller chamas still remain mainly unofficial and are created among friends and neighbours. The notion appears to fit in with sections of language and gender studies which show women to have tendencies of working together in the language of ‘let us’ verses males’ ‘let me’ (i.e. women adhere more to the practices and communication mode of rapport/support/togetherness while men follow more individualistic mode of communication, for report/self sufficiency/independence (Tannen1991). While the traditional practice of chama has been a local and supposedly insignificant affair, female migrants to England have given it a new meaning and higher levels of operation. This paper uses information gathered from migrants living in the UK, to show how these women are using the chama -a traditional concept to appropriate it for economic advancement at the global arena. Migration is used for empowerment. Through the chama the women form groups, save and buy houses and other properties within their host country and in their country of origin as well as send money home. The discussion will focus on the formation and the operations of chamas in England. In this sense the relationship between gender, migration and development is being viewed in terms of the empowerment of women.
Appears in Collections:Economic Empowerment

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