From 2008, Brighter Green, along with partners in the U.S.,Kenya, and Tanzania sponsored the education of ten girls from the Maasai community in both Kenya and Tanzania. The project was led in the region by three indigenous NGOs: the Parakuiyo Pastoralists Indigenous Community Development Organization (PAICODEO) in Tanzania; and SIMOO and the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), both based in Kenya. Internationally, the project was facilitated by Brighter Green and Tribal Link Foundation, another U.S.-based NGO.
The reasoning was clear: Indigenous women were, and are, under-represented at United Nations’ and other international forums dedicated to Indigenous rights and survival. Their leadership potential is also in large measure overlooked within their communities. Yet, these women have important perspectives to share with their communities as well as the global community to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples, protect cultural diversity and biodiversity, and secure sustainable livelihoods. All of these become more urgent tasks as the effects of climate change and globalization are felt more intensely by indigenous peoples around the world.
This initiative aimed to provide ten adolescent girls from Maasai communities in East Africa with both formal education and opportunities to develop their skills, capabilities, knowledge, and confidence so that as adult women they could become successful community leaders, as well as effective advocates for indigenous peoples and the environment at the international level. It is estimated that only 10 percent of Maasai individuals complete secondary (high) school or higher level education. For girls, the statistics are more dire: less than one percent completes secondary or higher schooling. The intent was to invest deeply in a small number of girls with significant potential but who were trapped by their families’ poverty. By combining access to schooling with rights training sessions, experiential learning visits, and mentoring, the likelihood would increase that these young women would, in time, emerge as leaders, grounded in grassroots realities and having the confidence and capability to become important leaders in a global context, there their voices, ideas, and skills were needed.