Volume 4, Issue 2, December 2012
Odera Oruka Seventeen Years On
Gail M. Presbey
Kenyan Sages on Equality of the Sexes
This article traces the larger theme of egalitarianism within the context of equality of the sexes throughout H. Odera Oruka’s interviews with Kenyan sages, whom he asked to share their views on the topic. Often, the sages asserted men’s superiority to women. This paper analyses the sages’ responses, as well as Odera Oruka’s rejoinders to their comments. I have broadened my study to include five sages interviewed by Frederick Ochieng’-Odhiambo, included in his dissertation completed under Odera Oruka’s supervision (1994). I find that the sages’ arguments for women’s inferiority were weak and flawed. Many contemporary Kenyans find fault with views similar to the sages’. The one sage who did elaborate on women’s equality failed to acknowledge that men discourage women from taking action to improve their situation. This article does not reject sage philosophy as an approach to the topic but insists that further study, including women sages, is needed to address the shortcomings of the sage interviews included in Odera Oruka’s Sage Philosophy (1991).