Kaweto- An openly accepted Taboo

A Kaweto is a young girl who has a child (children) out of wedlock; usually the parents are very poor or deceased and she is considered together with her child an extra mouth to feed. She becomes a Kaweto through encouragement by her living parent or remaining relatives (usually males).

Married women marry a Kaweto because they need extra help in their homes; they don’t have sons, or are barren. Dowry is not paid for a Kaweto. A ceremony though is done where the relatives of the Kaweto treat the married woman as King since she has taken on the burden of feeding the Kaweto and her child (children). The husband of the married woman marrying the Kaweto never attends this ceremony – in that case, the family of the Kaweto knows that the Kaweto and her children will have no rights or take the name of the husband (of the married woman) as their own.

A Kaweto is both a work-slave and a sex-slave. She wakes up before everyone else to make breakfast, clean dishes and sweep the compound, milk the cows and let the chicken out. She may go to the farm without breakfast, since she can only eat after the household has been fed. Mostly she gives up her nourishment for her children.

Since the married woman and Kawetos don’t have conjugal relations and the married woman may want children by her Kaweto (no, not the one the Kaweto came with), the Kaweto is expected to sleep with a lot of different men. Sometimes chosen by the married woman. The husband of the married woman also abuses her sexually (when the married woman is not watching). The Kaweto is now exposed to all kinds of sexually transmitted disease including HIV/Aids.

A Kaweto’s chances of being a truly married woman with rights bestowed to her by family through dowry and the society (dowry exchange rituals/ceremonies) are gone forever.  Any Kaweto who marries the husband of the married woman is looked down further by society. How could you do that to your benefactor?  No other man worth his balls is going to marry a current or former Kaweto.

The children of the Kaweto have no inheritance rights.  They belong to no one. In fact, they are chased out of the married woman’s home immediately they become teenagers. They have nowhere to go since their mother, gave up her rights as a daughter the moment she became a Kaweto. Daughters are rarely if at all inherited among the Kamba tribe. These children, born beautiful, are bastardized in infancy and young adult hood and their lives condemned to poverty. It doesn’t have to be this way.

High Schools in Kenya do not normally take in teenage mothers and if they do, the teenage mother is forbidden from talking about her child/sex life hence receiving no counseling/support/encouragement whatsoever.