As part of Brighter Green’s collaborative Young Women’s Education, Leadership and Rights Training Initiative, partner organization SIMOO has hosted a weekend workshop for a group of 30 young Maasai women, among them our ten program participants. This initiative aims to invest deeply in a small group of women, helping them to complete their secondary school education and develop skills, knowledge and confidence so that they can become effective community leaders and advocates.
The workshop was organized by Nairobi-based SIMOO with the assistance of CORDAID Netherlands, and provided the women with an opportunity to meet other young female Maasai students, as well as successful Maasai women who are active in their communities. The goal of the workshop was to educate these young women about issues affecting their communities, from female genital mutilation to early marriage, as well as expose them to international human rights provisions for women and girl children.
A brief report on the conference follows:
The first workshop that the girls attended was on Reproductive Health and led by Susan Siole, a Maasai high school teacher from a nearby community who has extensive experience mentoring girls in churches and schools. The women discussed issues surrounding sexual abuse, premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. They also raised concerns over missing school because of their inability to afford sanitary products for menstruations.
Jennifer Muyaki, an active defender of women’s rights, led the second workshop that dealt with Female Genital Mutilation. The Maasai widely engage in FGM, and this workshop provided an important opportunity for the girls to discuss this practice in a general way, as well as share their personal experiences. The group widely concluded that FGM is detrimental to the health and emotional well-being of women, and discussed ways in which they could work to stop this practice from taking place in their communities.
Faith Nemayian, a graduate from SIMOO’s high school scholarship program, led a mentorship and motivational workshop. Over the years Faith has become an important Maasai figurehead advocating community entrepreneurship and micro-credit lending programs, and is a successful restaurant owner and urban farmer. Faith told the young women about the many obstacles that she encountered throughout her youth, and led a discussion about the various cultural constraints that the girls must work hard to overcome.
The final workshop was led by SIMOO Executive Director Francis Ole Sakuda, who walked the young women through the various human rights provisions that relate to their lives. The women learned about legislation and conventions including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Kenya’s Children Rights Act, the Sexual Offense Act which prohibits FGM, and the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights. In the Q&A session that followed, the girls expressed shock of the rampant abuse of women in their communities despite the legal provisions that should protect them, and they suggested various steps to be taken, including translating these laws into the local vernacular and starting a public awareness campaign.
According to our partners on the ground, the participants left the workshop invigorated by the presentations and discussions. The weekend provided an important forum to discuss and gain a broader perspective on these issues, and many of the women left the event with a new framework to understand their life experiences. According to fifteen year old Tumeki Siankoi, “everyone (has) a right to equal distribution of resources and education, as all are equal and can perform the same duties.” Seventeen year old Mary Matekai spoke of the importance of educating women, saying that “empowering women will strengthen their participation in policy formation” and ensure their role in helping to “end FGM, poverty, discrimination and inequality.”
The ten young women in our Education, Leadership and Rights Training Initiative are currently working to complete their first year of boarding school. Please visit us here if you are interested in contributing to the project.