Praise, prestige and power : the organisation of social welfare in a developing Kenyan town
This thesis looks at the organisation of social welfare in the town of Eldoret in Kenya. It outlines the structure of welfare services provided by a number of different individuals and agencies and the way the giving and receiving of aid performs a structuring role in this multi-racial and multi-tribal town. I have used an anthropological approach to investigate the nature of 'welfare', showing that it is often approached from the wrong direction. 'Welfare needs' are not something 'out there' waiting to be met, they are defined and highlighted by the welfare services themselves. An overview of the situation and the complexity of the urban structure reveals how problematical a definition of the concept of 'need' is. The history of welfare activity and the contemporary situation are described and discussed. It is shown that there is in the town a juxtaposition of many international, national and local groups willing to be involved in welfare work, and a number of people who feel that the problems which they encounter in the urban setting make them eligible for this aid. Throughout the history of the town the giving and receiving of aid has been one of the activities contributing to the acquisition of power and status for individuals and for groups. There is no form of coordinating structure to organise the many participants in the social welfare activities and gaps in the provision therefore exist. It is shown that self-help groups have often been formed which bridge the gaps and help the recipients, their members, gain access to welfare donors. These groups provide their members, and particularly their leaders, with the chance to accrue status and advance socially in the urban environment which, because of their lack of education or contacts, prevents their access to other sources of personal advancement. The role of the broker is highlighted both in the self-help groups and in the formal welfare agencies. It is argued that these actors, moving between the donors and the recipients provide structure and linkages in the fluid urban system. The implications of the research findings for welfare and aid planning in Kenya suggest that more attention should be paid to encouraging these self-help groups. There is also a need to adopt a means of coordinating the use of aid in the towns, perhaps making use of the broker role, so that the aid reaches the target population.