Women are strong in the Maasai tribes. They build the houses, birth the children, care for the family, and make beautiful beaded jewelry. I felt the strength and sense of community that these women share with each other. It is a hard life as living conditions are very basic. Their lifestyle is semi-nomadic as they must live where there is grazing land for their cattle. It is becoming more of a challenge to feed their cattle as small farms are slowly encroaching on the open grazing lands.
I wanted to know if FGM (female genital mutilation) is still practiced in their tribes. The chief said that the practice was outlawed by the Kenyan government in 2011, but that it was still an important part of the ritual for young girls to become recognized as women. When I got home I researched the UNICEF statistics on FGM and found that this ritual of passage from girlhood to adulthood is practiced in 29 countries across Africa and that over 125 million women have been subjected to this barbarous mutilation.
It is often seen by the women who have undergone this tradition as an important part of their cultural heritage. When tradition endangers the health and well-being of women, education is critical. It is important that the elders of the tribes and villages understand the health dangers in these practices and find other rituals to mark the rite of passage for young women.