In the past, it was was expected of women to stay in the village while their husbands worked in town to provide for the family. For the modern day woman, even if they have no job, staying in the urban centres is a luxury they are not willing to give up
Belinda Kenyani clearly recalls how her nightmare began. “My husband sat me in the car and announced that he had a surprise for me. He then proceeded to drive six hours to our village home in Maseno, Vihiga county.
When they approached their newly-constructed house in the interior of Maseno town, he stopped and announced: “This will be your home from now onwards, do you like it?” he asked.
“I liked it, we had been building the house for several months. The workers had done good finishing work on the house,” she recounts.
But she was dumbfounded. She knew that they were building a retirement house, but she had no idea her husband had other plans; to have her move to the village while he worked in the city!
Disappointed by her husband’s one-sided decision, she did not have to mince her words, she adamantly refused to stay.
“I categorically told him that I cannot and would never move to the village without him and amidst bitter exchanges, we returned to Nairobi after a week’s stay in the village,” she retorts.
Not only was she against living apart from her husband, but she detested the backward village life and feared constant friction with her in-laws.
“Our house is less than 200 metres from my mother-in-law’s house and ever since we got married, we have never enjoyed a good relationship. And here I was being condemned to live as her neighbour,” she quips.
Like Belinda, many city women, shudder at the thought of living in the village. In the past, if a wife was not working in the city, she would stay in the village as her husband worked in the city to provide for the family. Wives were left behind to take responsibility of caring for their families, for child bearing and for agricultural production.
That has change; let alone living, women today do not want to visit their in-laws in the village.
Although she agrees that the village has its merits, Diana Onyango, another wife in Nairobi who has refused to move to the countryside, believes that the city is the best.
“The only thing I think the village has to offer me is the fresh air and fresh food,” she says.
However, she thinks that she will be cut off from the world if she stayed in the village because all her friends reside in the cit and there is no Internet in the village.
“I honestly cannot think of myself as a farm wife, I don’t know much about growing things, looking after animals and worse of all, even the simplest pleasures are denied. If I value a rich glass of wine, a well done sandwich or a fancy cappuccino, my only choice would be to hop onto a matatu three kilometres away to get to the nearest town, which is 10 kilometres away,” she sighs, adding, “Besides, what if my husband starts cheating on me? You know, out of sight out of mind,” she chuckles.
Diana says the tanning sun in the village will also ruin her tender skin, and she would have to forget about well manicured nails, and kept hair.
However, Joyce Chelang’at has a different opinion. She has lived in the village for 25 years taking care of her children and the family home while her husband, a police officer, worked in different parts of the country.
“It is not all that bad. Of course ,I miss my husband a lot, and that is just it, we have always compensated for that by visiting each other at least once every month. Other than that, life in the village is blissful,” she says.
Joyce thinks that women who insist on sticking by their husbands in the city despite being stay-at-home wives or mothers are just selfish. She thinks that they do not have a vision for the future by building their rural homes, where they will spend the rest of their lives after all.
“Most of those women, all they want to do is wear heels, wear make- up and hang out in nice places. They dread the rural lifestyle where they will find themselves stuck in deras, lesos around their waist 24/7. You know heels are not suited for rural life,” she chuckles.
Edward Marango, a sociologist ,says some women are honest about their dislike for rural life, because first, they were raised and bred in the city and, therefore, know no other life other than city life. Others would rather avoid clashing with their in-laws by staying with their husbands in the city or are simply looking for jobs.
He says migration to the village can have positive impacts on wives, since for some women, it leaves more room for them to control family resources, especially those from agricultural production and family income.
“The longer the husband is away, and the further away he is, the more decision-making space left-behind women can enjoy, and their abilities to make decisions will gradually increase,” he offers.
As for marital relations, Marango says research has revealed many risks to husbands and wives living apart, including increased risk of divorce and strong mental stress and sexual repression.