Maasai Girls Education Fund
Educating Girls and Empowering Women
Mission
To improve the literacy, health and
economic well-being of Maasai women
in Kenya and their families through
education of girls and their
communities.
The Statistics
o
48 out of 100 girls enroll in primary school
o
5 of them will make it to secondary school
o
Less than 1 will go to college
Why?
o
Poverty and early marriage
o
Teen pregnancy
o
Female genital mutilation (FGM)
o
HIV/AIDS
Poverty and Early Marriage
o
The Maasai are one of the poorest ethnic groups in Kenya.
o
Daughters are considered a financial burden and a dowry, paid to
the bride’s family, offers relief to Maasai families.
o
Fear of pregnancy, which is a disgrace prior to marriage and
lowers the bride price, perpetuates the practice of early marriage.
o
Early marriage is the most common reason that Maasai girls drop
out of school.
“You can marry a man of any
age, your father’s age, even older
than your father, and you don’t
have a right. They pay a dowry
that’s five cows and you go.”
Simantoi Kilama, MGEF Alumna
Teen Pregnancy
o
Discussing sex is taboo in Maasai culture, and so, girls are not
told how pregnancy happens or how they can avoid it.
o
When a Maasai girl reaches puberty, she is required to leave her
father’s home and sleep elsewhere. Without proper supervision,
she is vulnerable to sexual advances from men, placing her at risk
of contracting HIV and becoming pregnant.
o
Teen pregnancy is the second most frequent reason that Maasai
girls drop out of school.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
o
As a prelude to marriage, approximately 90% of Maasai girls
undergo a dangerous practice called FGM.
o
Side effects include psychological trauma, an excruciating
recovery process, and even death.
o
Circumcision increases the risk of mother and infant mortality.
o
Uncircumcised girls are often outcast, bullied, and considered
ineligible for marriage.
HIV/AIDS
o
Statistics show that girls in Kenya between the ages of 15 to 24 are
four to six times more likely to become infected with HIV than boys.
o
Though the average national HIV infection rate is six-percent, the
Maasai have a staggering infection rate of thirteen-percent.
o
As with other sex-related topics, Maasai girls are not taught about HIV
and how it is spread.
o
Maasai girls are often seduced by older men – who are more likely to
have HIV – as they are more successful at negotiating unprotected sex,
promising money and security.
Where We Are…
MGEF serves three districts in Southern Kenya: Kajiado, Ngong, and
Loitokitok. Two-thirds of the Maasai live in these semi-arid lands between
Nairobi and the Tanzanian border, many in remote villages (as shown below):
Beginnings
1999: Founder and President, Barbara
Lee Shaw, visited a Maasai village
near Kilonito, Kenya for a freelance
photography project. While there, she
met Ntanin, a young girl who had
never been to school, and learned
that numerous cultural and economic
barriers prevent other Maasai girls
from going to school.
Our First Student
Ntanin is her father’s 22nd child and the 6th child of his third
wife (he has four). Not one girl in her family had enrolled in
school. Barbara asked Ntanin’s father if she could pay for her
education and, when his answer was “yes,” she began sponsoring
Ntanin.
Timeline
o
1999: Upon her return to the US, Barbara shared
this story with her friends and family. Soon, they
were asking to sponsor Maasai girls, too!
o
2000: Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF)
was established
o
2001: MGEF became a 501(c)3 nonprofit
Beyond Scholarships:
Educating the Community
Community Education Programs
o
o
o
o
o
o
Life Skills Workshops for Girls
Annual Mentoring Workshop
Mothers Workshops
Business Training for Rural Maasai Women
Life Skills Workshops for Boys
Chiefs and Elders Workshops
Life Skills Workshops for Girls
Challenge:
In Maasai culture, sex is a taboo subject. Girls are not taught how to
protect themselves against pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. They also
have no knowledge of FGM until it is being performed on them.
Both circumcision and early marriage are done without consent, and
girls don’t know they have the legal right to refuse.
Solution:
Life Skills Workshops educate Maasai girls about pregnancy and how
to prevent it, HIV/AIDS and how it is spread, as well as national
laws that forbid early marriage and FGM. The girls are given
resources and informed about government and tribal authorities who
can stop forced marriage and circumcision. They are empowered to
make their own choices and thus, lead healthier lives.
Annual Mentoring Workshop
Challenge:
When Maasai girls reach puberty they are strongly pressured, if not
forced, to drop out of school and marry. If they have not been
circumcised, the return to their home village during school break
could turn into an FGM ceremony. Adolescent girls are also
vulnerable to sexual advances from men, increasing their chance of
contracting HIV or becoming pregnant.
Solution:
o The Annual Mentoring Workshop is a three-day gathering of current
MGEF students, alumnae, and professional Maasai women, where
girls are taught life skills and provided mentors for advice, support,
and inspiration.
At the Annual Mentoring
Workshop, students are asked
to think about what they want
to be, to envision a better
future in spite of the
challenges they face, and to
believe in themselves. This list
was compiled in December
2011.
Mothers Workshops
Challenge:
Cultural taboos prevent mothers from talking to their daughters about
sex, and because women have no power in their family or community,
they cannot effectively advocate for the girl child. In addition, many
myths persist about the benefits of FGM, perpetuating the practice.
Solution:
The Mothers Workshop explains the importance of talking to daughters
about teen pregnancy, HIV, and the adverse impact of FGM on women’s
health: death, difficult child birth, and increased infant and maternal
mortality. They are also encouraged to build safe, protected homes for the
daughters who are no longer allowed to reside in their father’s hut.
Business Trainings for Rural Maasai Women
Challenge:
Maasai women have no rights in their community or home. Men
hold all the power and make all the decisions, both in the private
and public sphere. With little to no education or source of income,
Maasai women face a life of subordination and poverty.
Solution:
Business Training provides management tools and seed grants to
rural Maasai women. When a Maasai woman gains economic
power, she acquires a voice in family decisions. She has the
resources to educate all her children and to protect them from early
marriage and FGM.
Life Skills Workshop for Boys &
Chiefs and Elders Workshops
Challenge:
In order to achieve gender equality, men and boys must be involved. Only men
have the authority to change cultural traditions and practices that contribute to
the spread of HIV and the high level of teen pregnancy.
Solution:
The Life Skills Workshops for men and boys invoke pride in the man to raise his
family out of poverty, prevent the spread of HIV and protect against teen
pregnancy, and end violence against women, including FGM. The connection
between certain cultural practices and HIV are explained, especially where it
involves promiscuity. They learn that FGM also contributes to the spread of HIV,
and that it is harmful to girls and women, a painful procedure that sometimes
results in death, makes childbirth more difficult, and increases maternal and infant
mortality. Men are encouraged to partner with their wives to protect their
children against HIV and teen pregnancy.
UN Millennium Goals
MGEF programming supports the following UN Millennium Goals:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
4. Reduce child mortality
2. Achieve universal primary education
5. Improve maternal health
3. Gender equality
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases
Educating the Community
MGEF and Dining for Women are partnering to fund:
o
Life Skills Workshops for Girls
o
Annual Mentoring Workshop
o
Business Trainings for Rural Maasai Women
o
Mothers Workshops
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