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Being a ‘big man’ among Kumam

Initially in Kumam culture, being a ‘big man’ was earned from inheritance. For example, when the father died, it was the first borne male child who inherited the cattle riches; owned all of the land that was his father’s. He took over the position of the late father and automatically he became a ‘big man’ at household level.

However, at clan level, they would look at the family linage; ability to settle domestic issues; the amount of wealth in terms of animals; number of wives; the number of children (they were seen as security); and the courage someone had to speak and to face battle that may arise between different clans.This is not the case today.

Today, to be recognized as a ‘big man’, you must have a well established home; and a success story of children who have achieved in education, of whom some are employed.

For the case of a middle age person, they look at how hard working someone is; their ability to influence and share what they have with others; a certain level of education; and owning more than or what others do not have – like investments, cars, among others.

Robert Oluka is a beneficiary of our CPAR Uganda programme, “Mentoring Young Adults into Innovators against Poverty,” and for that reason he is currently also participating as an innovator, a research assistant really, on our project, “Challenging Categories: Educated Unemployed Youth as Institutional Innovators in Rural Uganda,” which we are implementing in partnership with Lira University and the University of East Anglia, UK. His comment herein was in reaction to a blog post: “To be a ‘Big Man’ in Teso is earned not inherited” posted by Norah Owaraga on her website; a post which discusses findings of empirical research that was conducted by Dr. Ben Jones in Teso. Dr. Jones is the Principal Investigator of our Challenging Categories project.

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