East Africa: Young Women’s Program Update and Maasai Human Rights (Part I)

East Africa: Young Women’s Program Update and Maasai Human Rights (Part I)

Tanzanian girls with Daniel Salau and Rehema Mkalata from PAICODEO

Kenyan and Tanzanian Young Women’s Progress

The end of 2012 marked huge accomplishments and milestones for the East African Young Women’s Leadership Initiative. All five Kenyan young women, Ann, Hellen, Joyce, Sabina, and Elizabeth, sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) national exam, required for admission into university. Three of the Tanzanian young women finished their end of year exams and have been promoted to form four, their final year of secondary education. One young woman, Rehema, finished her final year of studies and is waiting to enroll in college.

The Kenyan young women have a few months between sitting for the KCSE exam and starting college and are spending the next few months interning at local organizations in Kenya. Sabina will be interning at SIMOO, one of Brighter Green’s East African Young Women’s Leadership Program partner organizations, Joyce will be interning at Oloisukut Conservancy Project, Elizabeth will be interning at Jambo Volunteers, Hellen will be interning at Ewuaso Meeyu Community Bank, and Ann will be interning at Namelok Youth Community Trust. These diverse internships will provide the young women with some real “hands on” experience in the working world, both in community based organizations and in other local companies, before they enter university. They also expose the young women to possible career paths, historically unlikely for Maasai women, that help the Maasai community by battling local injustices and educating the Maasai people about the effects of climate change on their community.

Three of the Tanzanian young women are set to enter their final year of studies before college while Rehema is waiting to enroll in college. The Tanzanian young women had their annual workshop in December with members from SIMOO and PAICODEO (one of the East African Young Women’s Leadership Initiative partner organizations). In addition to receiving leadership training and participating in discussions affecting the Maasai community in Tanzania, the young women confidently reflected on their progress over the year in the program. Martha said:

“[I] am happy to meet again after one year. [I] am happy about this program because I have never missed school throughout the year. I have not lacked school fees or any other thing that I needed to stay in school. I have worked hard and I hope to graduate to form four next year. Thank you so much Rehema for always being with us.”

(Rehema Mkalata is one of the PAICODEO officials who has been very involved with mentoring the Tanzanian young women.)

It is clear that the East African Young Women’s Leadership Program has helped the women stay in school. The program has helped pay for school fees and other costs associated with attending school. In addition, the young women have benefited immensely from the support of SIMOO and PAICODEO members who are able to stay in contact, guide, and advise the young women throughout the year. While the Tanzanian young women expressed gratitude and happiness towards the program, the past year has been marked by struggles. In addition to struggling with learning English and switching schools, the women have had a lack of moral support from their parents and have been threatened with marriage and/or female genital mutilation. In spite of these obstacles, the officials leading the program remarked positively on the young women’s growth and confidence over the past year.

Both the Kenyan and Tanzanian young women are thankful for the opportunity to attend school and to receive leadership training. As young Maasai women, it is clear from the above update that the young women in the program are gaining confidence and excitement towards their future. However, gender differences and prejudice are still an issue, especially since marriage and FGM has threatened the young women’s continued progress in the program. The East African Young Women’s Leadership Initiative aims to not only help these Maasai women become leaders of their community and advocates for indigenous people, but advocates for women’s rights as well.

This blog post is first in a series of two updates on the East African Young Women’s Leadership Initiative and the Maasai community. Check back here in a few days for the second blog post update.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Salau