When we arrive back at Judy’s house a large group of women are waiting for us. They’re beautifully adorned in their jewelry and headdresses and all of the women are wearing bright orange shukas.
Omar puts a bottle of water in my hand as our entire group heads out to a local meeting hall – a cinder block building with a peaked tin roof – has rows of folding chairs set up. At the front is a small stage with three large chairs – a tall one in the middle and two smaller ones on either side. Ali asks me to take a seat in the middle chair and Kura and Judy are seated on either side. Over fifty women plus curious onlookers fill the hall. Ali starts the meeting and introduces some of the women leaders.
What proceeds is a celebration of singing and dancing in which numerous testimonials and speeches are given.
“We want to say, kalath, (thank you), Mama Rungu, to you and Kura for what you have brought us.”
The women have composed a new song and I catch the word ‘Kura’ and ‘Mama Rungu’ in the lyrics. Both Kura and I are given beautifully decorated rungus and I hold my rungu high above my head as we dance and sing. When we go outside some of the women pose under a tree and I take their picture. It is only then that I realize what all the bright orange shukas mean. It is a sign of membership – a new identity for the women in BOMA businesses who are no longer the village beggars that gather firewood and water. They are business owners and traders. They are proud of their accomplishments and the orange shuka is a sign of their dignity and prosperity.
“Now we are someone, Mama Rungu.”
We make our way slowly back to Judy’s house where Omar is packing up the vehicle. Along the way we visit one last BOMA business. There are only two women inside the hut kiosk and they have a diverse set of goods to sell – powdered juice mixes, livestock drugs, shoes, clothes, tobacco, razor blades, lollipops and chewing gum.
Each BOMA business is comprised of three people so I ask the two women: “Where is your third business partner?”
“She had a baby last night, Mama Rungu. She is so sorry to miss meeting you.”
“That’s ok, I will meet her next time,” I tell the women, “and her baby, of course!”
“This is a very special baby, Mama Rungu.”
“Why is that?” I ask them.
“This baby came on the day you arrived in our village. We all talked about what we would name this baby and then we decided. We named this baby BOMA. It is a good name.”