The participating women sponsored in the East African Young Women’s Leadership Initiative gathered in Arusha, Tanzania from December 29-31, 2010 for an Education, Mentorship & Human Rights Workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to analyze the program, the young women’s progression over the past two years, and to discuss their successes and challenges in school and in life.
The program aims to empower the young women to positively impact their communities through education, mentorship and capacity building. Facilitators Josphine Nashipai and Mary Labdaki were present to encourage the young women, hear their concerns, and give them positive examples of women making a difference in their communities and the world at large.
The young women’s program coordinator, Daniel Salau, said, “It is notable that the girls are now more confident and can express themselves better.” Many of the women commented that they are extremely grateful for the program, but face several challenges.
From Daniel’s recently released report on the December workshop, it’s clear that cultural and infrastructural challenges abound. From understaffing to water shortages to inadequate supplies of textbooks, many obstacles confront the young women. Several women also expressed fears of cultural practices and acceptance when they returned home, including pressures to undergo FGM and marriage. Also, the young women worry about their overall health and have limited access to medical facilities. They hope the program will develop arenas to aid in their healthcare and increase dialogue with their family members.
Overall it appears the young women have become motivated and gained necessary skills, such as public speaking and local knowledge, that will help them become successful leaders in their communities. During the workshop, the women and facilitators visited a community project center nearby run by OMASI (Orkonerei Massai Social Initiative) and funded by the investment firm, DOSI (Dutch Olkonerei Social Investment). There are several sustainable processing ventures, including milk, bio-fuel and meat divisions, whose income is used for social development of the local community.
Ledaiki Ann Nailantei, 16 years old, commented, “I am interested in the environment. The Maasai are losing land and with severe drought resulting from climate change, there is now a lot of poverty.” Another young woman, Hellen, who is 15 years old, summed up the workshop perfectly, “I would like to help Maasai women become economically empowered so that they can fight for their rights.” The women have much to face in their young lives, but are undoubtedly becoming role models and leaders.
Photos courtesy of Daniel Salau