Get to know the Maasai

If the reality of the Maasai people seems distant to you, you’re not alone. Most people outside of Africa are unaware of the Maasai, their customs and traditions, and the challenges they face. The chances of your having met a Maasai are rather slim as well, unless of course you’ve travelled to Kenya or northern Tanzania, areas to which they are indigenous. However distant, the Maasai share many characteristics with us. They are resilient and hard working, they have strong beliefs, values and traditions, and they have a long history with periods of prosperity and others of accentuated hardship. They are warm, and welcoming, and curious about the world abroad. The Maasai culture is steeped in tradition, dating back for many centuries. Strongly patriarchal in nature, the men are responsible for the safety of the village, developing and improving the community’s cattle stock through trades and bartering, and making all relevant political decisions. Women are responsible for all matters regarding the home,...
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Women’s Center

Many women and girls in Africa are marginalized and have little control over their destiny. They have little influence or power over issues that directly concern them. This is particularly true of the Maasai women and girls.     To change this, Coins for Change is building a Women's Center. The Women’s Center will be a training center to learn new and necessary skills, allowing women to be more in control of their own destiny. It will have spaces for beadwork, sewing and leatherwork. It will teach women life skills such as basic literacy, how to market their handcrafted items, how to protect their families from infectious diseases, and how to stop gender discrimination. It will also have a safe house, a women’s medical clinic and a birthing center. To ensure that Maasai women and girls feel at ease in the Women’s Center, local Kenyan architect Daniel Mayabi has designed it to resemble and have the features of a Maasai Boma (village). The design can be seen...
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Safe House

Extreme poverty, tradition and gender bias weigh heavily on Maasai families, and heavier still on Maasai girls. Girls are required to undergo FGM and most are forced into early marriage to a much older man who already has many wives. As women, 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. As child brides, these girls and women are also much more likely to suffer from physical or sexual abuse by their husbands. Husbands they did not choose for themselves.   When Maasai girls and women in the Amboseli region of Kenya feel endangered, they go to Chief Mary Kahingo. They stay with her until the courts or Chiefs are able to alleviate the danger, allowing them to return to their home in safety. Given the number of women and girls who come seeking her help and protection, however, Chief Mary has run out of space at home to...
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Academy for Women’s and Girls’ Rights

Maasai 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...
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Alleviating poverty

Most Maasai live in extreme poverty, on $0.35 a day. The International Poverty Line, as defined by the World Bank, is at $1.90 per person per day. 90% of the Maasai people’s livestock were killed by starvation in 2009 when a severe drought hit the Amboseli region of Kenya. The Maasai maintain a traditional pastoral lifestyle, depending on their livestock for nutrition and source of income. Milk, in fact, is their most important source of nutrition, as their staple diet consists of milk and maize. Because of their reduced livestock, Maasai families and children are almost always hungry now. Some children eat only one meal a day, and most just two meals a day.   In 2009, Coins for Change identified a new breed of goat, the Galla goat, that produces 4 cups of milk per day, which is 4x as much milk as the traditional East African goat. 18 Galla goats were purchased in Somalia and brought to the Maasai to see if...
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Sponsoring Children’s Education

An education is often a luxury that families can not afford The Maasai maintain a traditional pastoral lifestyle, depending on their livestock for nutrition and as a source of income to help pay for expenses such as their children’s education. The severe drought of 2009 killed 90% of their livestock, and there are now many children who cannot attend school because their parents just don’t have the money. Most Amboseli Maasai live on 35c a day. State supported schools do exist, but in Amboseli, Kenya they are usually low performing schools with class sizes of around 60 to 80 students, very few books and no computers. Quality boarding schools, on the other hand, provide children with a good education, giving them the knowledge and skills to foster more prosperous futures for themselves, their families and their communities. But at an annual cost of $500, they are out of reach for most Maasai families.   Being sponsored to a boarding school can save a Maasai...
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