Jul 23 2015
Ten years ago, these women decided enough was enough. The men here were alcoholics. They were spending all of the family’s income on booze. They were selling the family’s possessions to finance their addiction. And they spent all day at the local tavern carousing and being irresponsible. The men were unable to fulfill their “marital duties” to their wives and birth rates plummeted.
The final straw came when someone snuck into the house of a blind man, engaged him in petty conversation, and stole his blankets during their chat to sell them for beer. When the women heard this, they called a few secret meetings. And they set a plan.
One morning, in 2005, the women of the village heard the signal – the sound of a whistle. It was 4am. Three hundred women – yes, three HUNDRED – all marched to the tavern with hoes, axes, and hammers. They tore the tavern apart board by board. They poured out all the alcohol and smashed all the bottles they were kept in. They basically had a riot.
And it worked.
The men, feeling shame, actually humbled themselves to this incredible act. They realized the damage they’d caused to their wives and children (and yet-unborn children). Since then, Kahuria, this community two hours north of Nairobi, hasn’t dealt with alcoholism at any kind of scale like they used to. The men here agreed it was one of the best things that has ever happened in their village. The Kenyan government lauded the action of the women and pointed to it as a model for other communities in the country.
I’m reminded of two things. First, women are extremely powerful. They have the ability to imagine and do incredible things. Second, virtually no American would have thought up this idea. We know almost nothing about the customs and culture of the places we visit. This shows us again that local people have local knowledge and that local knowledge is sometimes unorthodox, but ultimately effective because the solution is local.
When seeing others faced with problems, we’re so often inclined to ask them what the problem is and then design a solution to fix it. Instead, we ought to ask locals, “What do you think the solution is?” Nine times out of ten, their answers will prove to be right. Sometimes you need to tear down a pub that’s tearing apart your life.