maasai-woman-repairing-a-dung-hutMaasai women and girls have a hard life.

They are responsible for building and repairing dung huts (their houses), fetching firewood and water, milking animals, raising children and cooking for male family members. Girls are required to undergo FGM and most are forced into early marriage to a much older man who already has many wives.


In 2014, Kenya passed a Marriage Law that forbids girls being married before they are 18 years old. FGM is also now illegal in Kenya.

Many male Maasai chiefs, however, have refused to stop these traditional practices and have not informed women and girls about the new laws protecting their rights. FGM is a rite of passage that marks a Maasai girl’s transition to womanhood and her readiness to marry, regardless of age. The culture of FGM and early marriage is so ingrained in the Maasai that it leaves little room for external influence and makes it difficult to introduce and accomplish social change. Unless women and girls are informed about the new laws by their Maasai chiefs, they are unlikely to learn about their rights. Maasai villages are spread out over too large an area, and most speak only Maa, a language that has no written form.


A 12 year old Maasai child bride


In 2010, Mary Kahingo became the first Maasai women chief in all of Kenya. She has successfully taught a number of Maasai girls and women about their new rights and has conducted several alternative rite of passage ceremonies. The alternative rite of passage ceremony allows young girls to transition to womanhood without going through FGM.


Coins for Change is now scaling up these efforts and putting the necessary resources in place to have a broader impact.

The Academy for Women’s and Girls’ Rights will train Maasai women and girls as peer educators and change agents in the community, acquainting them with the Kenyan laws that ban early marriage and FGM, and teaching them accepted alternative non-FGM rite of passage ceremonies.


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