HC Deb 14 December 1955 vol 547 cc1181-2
39. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that in some parts of Embu and Fort Hall, Kenya, women are forced to give five to six days' communal work per week with the result that their children are suffering neglect; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Agricultural communal work is limited in Embu to one day a week and in Fort Hall to two days a week, subject to ninety days maximum per annum. In Fort Hall district particular attention is at present being paid to the building of villages, and a considerable amount of time is spent by plot holders on building their own huts. This is an individual responsibility, and is not classed as communal labour, although the people organise the work on a communal basis according to their custom.

Both agricultural work and the thatching of houses are traditionally regarded as women's work and they are not, therefore, excluded from the regulations. In all districts old people, children, the sick, pregnant women and women in charge of creches, soup kitchens, etc., are exempted from communal labour.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Colonial Secretary aware that the information which he has just given to me conflicts with information given to me by the District Commissioner in Embu, with whom I did a tour, and that individual women in the villages there told me that they were doing three days' manual labour, some on such general work as maintaining roads? is it not time that we made these jobs the responsibility of paid labour and did not put them on the backs of women and make them forced unpaid workers?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I do not know whether the hon. Lady, after three weeks in Africa, has convinced herself that she is now prepared to alter the habits which have gone on for centuries.

Dr. Summerskill

I think it time that this question was asked: can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what, in these villages, is regarded as man's work?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I confess to the right hon. Lady that I asked that question myself.

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