Reconstructing Kenyan women's image in Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye's Coming to Birth

Barasa, Violet Nasambu
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ABSTRACT This study examines how Macgoye, in her novel Coming to Birth, articulates the place of women characters in the Kenyan society from colonial to postcolonial periods. It investigates how Macgoye explores Kenya’s postcolonial socio-political dynamics and their influences in the construction of individual women’s identities. The study relies on feminist articulations to help us capture the contestation between patriarchal dominance and women agency as presented in Coming to Birth. I argue that, through the utilisation of political changes and events, Macgoye demonstrates the capacity of African women and Kenyan women in particular to break from the fetters of social-cultural structures to achieve self-realisation as free agents. The study begins with a review of Macgoye’s writings and a general literature survey on feminist debates that are relevant in articulating women’s experiences in Africa and Kenya in particular. By focusing on the theme of politics, the research proceeds to demonstrate how socio-political changes influence the formation of identities and choices of individuals in the society as exemplified by the protagonist, Paulina. Given the centrality of women’s agency in Coming to Birth, the work proceeds to explore strategies that women employ for their individual emancipation within a society dominated by patriarchal dictates. I do this by focusing on marriage and motherhood and how women interrogate the construction of these institutions. The work then explores other key elements pertinent to women emancipation used in Coming to Birth, namely, Christianity, education, rural/urban dynamics and traditional practices. Finally, friendship is discussed as a site that enables women to transcend social structures imposed on them by society.