“It Takes a Village,” Kenyan Proverb

Stanley Kalu studies screenwriting at the University of Southern California. He is originally from Nigeria, but has moved several times throughout his life. He spent a significant portion of his life in Nairobi, Kenya and now lives in Los Angeles, California. He recalls hearing a number of stories as he grew up; many of these stories conveyed moral lessons and were told to younger audiences. In the excerpt below, Stanley recounts a folk tale he heard as a child:

Stanley: “I mean, this isn’t that remarkable… but the phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is very, very apt… particularly in rural areas of Africa, because that literally does happen. If you uh, like you can get beaten by anybody for misbehaving within these communities, because they really do believe that it does take a village. So everyone is your auntie and everyone is your uncle; and therefore, if they are older than you, you have to respect them, as you would respect your parents.”

Here, Stanley describes a proverb that has symbolic and literal value. The proverb addresses some pragmatic concerns about raising a child; it acknowledges how incredibly time consuming the process is and encourages others to help in whatever way they can. In a way, this proverb encourages parents to subsidize the child-rearing process to people they know and respect.

This proverb also provides insight to the social hierarchies that exist in Nairobi. Stanley notes in the transcript that children are expected to behave respectfully towards their elders (who care for them in return). There is a feeling of collective obligation present in Nairobi, which is evident in the way they go about raising their children.