In a tour of the Maasailand, one cannot miss the sight of a woman either at work, tending to animals, carrying a baby while breast feeding, fetching wood from the surrounding thicket, carrying water containers, or building and repairing a manyatta.
The Maasai society is patriarchal and polygamous and women are relegated to subordinate positions and suffer discrimination. Women are marginalized in matters affecting their community development. They do not own or control any property and are confined to the domestic sphere. The Maasai, place no value in ‘investing’ in their girls’ education because they believe that there is no point in spending money on educating girls who will leave their fold for another family.
Furthermore, on a day-to-day level, girls experience a disproportionate workload as compared to boys. They are allocated more household tasks than boys as well as the responsibilities of looking after younger siblings on market days or while their parents are working. As a result of the heavier workload subjected to women, most young girls are often not allowed to attend school while those who are enrolled in schools, suffer to lose much of their school time so that they can assist in their homes.
Since birth, a Maasai girl child is treated as a second-class citizen and her development is determined by cultural traditions and norms that deny her chances and opportunities to reach her self-determination and make own choices. Female Genital Mutilation and early child marriages are some of the severest forms of women emasculation as it denies young girls the chance to reach the age at which they can make a choice and facilitate the assumption of adulthood responsibilities at immature age. These deeply rooted traditional cultures have had negative effects on the socio-economic life of the Maasai girl child and are largely responsible for low literacy levels, high school dropouts, low school enrolment and high infant and maternal mortality rates of the girl child in the Maasai community.
Esiankiki Foundation is a Group mentorship program dedicated to empowering young Maasai girls in Narok and Kajiado Counties in Kenya and creating links and networks within and across generations of women.