Other Projects

Interviews with older men in Oyugis, Nyanza Province
Principal Investigator: Alex Weinreb

Long interviews with 10 elderly men were carried out to explore what it means to be old, and how changes in social, economic and epidemiological conditions have changed the position of the elderly in this area. Men rather than women were chosen because most of the existing research on the elderly in Kenya, like social and health research on Kenya in general, appears to focus on women.

All 10 interviews were conducted by Auko, one of the field supervisors in the social networks survey, in the Oyugis area of Nyanza Province in February and March, 1997. Seven of the 10 were elderly husbands of women of reproductive age sampled in the survey. The remaining three had elderly wives.

The interviews lasted between 70 and 130 minutes. They were recorded and fully transcribed and translated by George, a Kenyatta University graduate who grew up close to Oyugis and lived there at the time of these interviews. Most took place at the homes of the informants. An interview guide can be viewed online. The interviews cover informants’ life histories, including work and marital histories, land inheritance and intergenerational conflicts. Some also cover national political conflicts. Selected transcripts (with names removed) are also available for download.

Weinreb (1999a) summarizes some key issues unveiled by these interviews.

The Women’s Illness rariu in rural Nyanza
Principal Investigator: Nancy Luke

As part of her doctoral dissertation, Nancy Luke explored the social construction of illness in rural Kenya and the factors affecting illness legitimation and treatment. She investigated rariu, a women’s reproductive illness common in South Nyanza, which was uncovered during the first phase of interviewing for KDICP. Rariu is an illness with wide-ranging symptoms and mostly occurs during pregnancy. It does not parallel any single reproductive health condition identified by biomedicine but appears to be an umbrella term for pain in the lower abdominal region.

Luke spent 5 weeks in Obisa sublocation in South Nyanza, February-March 1999, conducting qualitative interviews on issues surrounding rariu and women’s lives. These interviews were targeted at studying how women’s illness is understood in South Nyanza with particular regard to how rariu is recognized as a legitimate illness, and how treatment decisions are made. Based on flexible interview guides, Nancy Luke elicited information on beliefs about illness and the body, the role of women’s social networks in illness decisionmaking, and women’s status vis-à-vis the community and husbands in making household decisions, including those pertaining to women’s illness. This research was funded by the Mellon Foundation through the Population Studies Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

The interview guides were based on previous investigation of KDICP data (both qualitative interviews and the household survey) with regard to rariu. Semistructured interviews included 16 women (13 of whom had been selected out of the KDIC household survey listing), 8 traditional healers, 8 nurses and doctors, and 6 men, as well as numerous informal interviews.

The main results of these interviews are presented in Luke’s doctoral dissertation and in various other papers.