“I got divorced in 2015 after 25 years of marriage. My six children and I were chased away from our matrimonial home by my husband. Fortunately, I had a small plot that was given to me by the village council.
"I had to start my life afresh and had to solely provide for my children. My husband wanted to grab my plot but members of WRLF in my village reported the issue to the Ward Land Tribunal. The tribunal solved the issue in my favour and my ownership rights were affirmed.”
For the humble Maasai communities in Ngorongoro District, financial security and family welfare are fundamental concerns.
Life is particularly difficult for these families who face numerous environmental, economic and social issues in their area of the Ngorongoro District. Lack of pasture, livestock diseases, recurrent droughts, increasing livestock death toll, encroachment on conservation areas, poverty, and increased land-use conflicts with commercial enterprise mean maintaining the wellbeing of their families is a daily struggle.
One shining beacon of hope, progress and success for these communities is Emanyata Secondary School (ESS).
Founded in 1992, ESS is community-owned and reliant primarily on community financial contributions and self-generated income. In 2005 the School found itself in a difficult financial position and PWC was asked by local leaders to step in as the managing organisation.
ESS is now an important resource and support mechanism for the District, not only as a local school and employer, but as a centre for discussion and development for the community and a platform for a girl’s empowerment movement that is creating change in this typically patriarchal society.
Within a Maasai culture that traditionally values boys’ education over girls’, ESS stands apart.
In 2015, 75% of ESS students were girls. Academically strong but financially struggling, without educational opportunity and encouragement these girls would be at high risk of forced marriage and early pregnancy. ESS provides them with a quality education and a safe living environment.
2015 marks 10 years of PWC’s stewardship and a year of great progress for the School. In addition to PWC’s ongoing student scholarship support, 112 ESS students were provided the PWC Pre-Form 1 progamme, which provides language lessons and subject tutoring to help prepare students transition from Tanzania’s Kiswahili primary curriculum to the English secondary curriculum. Enabling girls to successfully enter Secondary School also provides them with a secure campus home and safety from forced marriage and gender-based violence.
Ongoing academic success and community demand enabled a campus expansion in 2015. PWC facilitated the construction of two classrooms, an office for the headmaster and a boys’ dormitory. Campus management was also strengthened through recruitment of a Grounds Manager.
10 years of time and resource investment by PWC and numerous community members, student parents and financial supporters has come to fruition in recent years, with ESS placing first in their District in the Form Four National exams for the second consecutive year in 2015.
Lenoi Massago, a pastoralist girl from a remote area of Maasailand, has always struggled to attend school. When she was at primary school her father would try to stop her attendance. Once she was in standard five and realised the benefits of being educated she started finding ways around her father in order to attend school. When she passed her standard seven exams she expressed the desire to go on to secondary school but this was quickly brushed aside by her father. During the long break between primary and secondary school she was visiting an aunt when she heard that PWC were conducting interviews and exams to get a place in Emanyata Secondary School. She decided to go to the PWC office secretly so that her father wouldn’t stop her. She passed the exam and was told to report to the PWC office on the 14th January 2012 to be brought to Emanyata.
She went home to tell her father only to be told that he wouldn’t allow her to attend the school. The village chiefs were alerted about this. They managed to talk to her father and he promised that he would take her and that he would buy her all the requirements that she would need for school. When they discussed this with Lenoi's stepmother she refused to agree. Lenoi’s hopes of going to secondary school were dashed.
She stayed at home until March when she decided that she would try and make her own way to school. She ran away from home and found her way to a village near the school where she found a PWC worker. They put her on the phone to the PWC education officer who told her they would help her. Lenoi met up with one of the Emanyata Secondary School teachers who arranged for all the uniform and school necessities to be bought. Finally, Lenoi made it to secondary school.
Since then she has been under the full sponsorship of PWC. She does not go home for any holidays for fear that her parents will force her to marry or get a Morani (young warrior) to impregnate her. Her brother came to Emanyata to try and take her home but he was denied access by the school.
As long as PWC have the sponsorship funds and if Lenoi keeps working hard she will be able to complete her form 4 exams. Lenoi does not want to return home and be married off. She wants to choose her life path for herself. She has struggled so much in the face of adversity to be given the opportunity to be educated. She dreams of one day being a doctor. She wants to have her children educated in the best schools. With the help of the sponsorship from PWC this dream could become a reality for her.
“In 2011 I was glad to attend training on bead making facilitated by PWC. The knowledge and skills I gained has enabled me to make beads and take them to the cultural boma. I have also been training other women whom did not attend the training. The loan I got from the SACCOS has enabled me purchase more beads.
Before I joined the SACCOS I could only feed my family one meal a day and that was not assured. Now I am assured to feed my family two meals a day. I wish one day to be able to feed them three meals. We need more trainings and we promise PWC that we will help more women to be self reliant. I also request PWC to facilitate other trainings to diversify our businesses also to train us in ways on emergency savings to help us in drought periods like now.”
"I create awareness among women about microcredit, I train them about what it means and how they will benefit. The group organises for each member to give money and looks to NGO’s and the government for additional funds. The group decides at a general meeting which 8 or 9 members will borrow money this time. Once they start making a profit they start paying back the loan. For example, some members travel to buy maize, sugar or tea where it’s cheap, then sell it in a different area, or to hotels. No member has ever defaulted on her loan.
At the moment there are 371 women in our group from three communities. The challenge we have is that the number of members has increased but our capital is only 7 million shillings ($4,600) so we can only help a few women at a time."
"Three years ago the women in my area had a meeting and chose me to go and live at the Boma because I was so poor. My husband had two other wives and never helped me. I used to sell firewood to another village 10km away so I could afford cornflour to feed my children. My children were very skinny. Sometimes I had no food for my children so I divided them up and sent them to different relatives. I couldn’t afford pens or books so the two eldest dropped out of primary school.
I came to the Boma as a volunteer to look after the livestock. The Boma paid me a small amount with income that it generated. With that income I started buying goats, and selling them at a profit, then buying more. At the moment I have 33 goats. I also bought two chickens and now I have over 50. I’m the only person in the community who owns any and I sell chicken and eggs at the market every Saturday. I’m also cultivating half an acre of land, growing maize for my children. I’m planning to extend the plot.
My husband is now helping me with many things when before he gave me no support. He also volunteers at the Boma and helps me grow the maize. We’ve had another child together. With the money I’ve made I’m now buying materials to build my own house. Soon I will be leaving the boma as I can live independently and the community will choose a new woman to come in my place.
PWC is deep in my heart, I can’t describe how I feel. Everyone now respects me; they see how hard I’ve worked. My children are healthy and more confident. My three eldest are in school, I am now able to pay my school contributions. PWC is like a milking cow, I want it to survive forever."
“In my village, Sakala, I am a Women’s Rights Committee representative leader. My role is to talk on their behalf. I am not happy at all when other women face many challenges especially domestic violence problems and they fail to get help. I try to help by advising them to present every problem they face to the concerned authority and in that case to the Maasai village council as this is the first ladder of leadership authority.
Many Maasai women are beaten by their husbands and fail to report to the concerned authority fearing their husbands, will beat them again and send them back to their homes. My role is to help those who fear to report their cases. I usually go with them and speak on their behalf. I have gained much knowledge through trainings on women rights and this has really given me the strength and authority to face men.
My advice to my fellow women is that, we should not keep quiet. Let us know we have our rights. Let us report any case of domestic violence to the responsible authorities. My dream is to take part in all decision-making processes and be chosen to represent my fellow women in the village council and even above. One day I wish to be a councilor to voice women’s issues which are often left aside during decision-making processes and developmental issues.
Thanks to PWC for enabling us to have our forum where we are free to present all issues affecting women”.
Strengthening Women's Rights, Empowering Communities: Women's Leadership Forums in northern Tanzania
Pastoralist women are some of the most marginalized people in Tanzania, lacking property and ownership rights, access to basic social services, and the ability to make decisions about their own lives. But this is starting to change.
This film produced by Maliasili Initiatives documents what appears to be the development of a social movement -- where pastoralist women are gaining a voice in decision-making processes, are owning land and property, and are successfully advocating for their own rights and the rights of their communities.
"My husband died when I was very young, I didn’t know anything, I didn’t know my rights. My husbands relatives took our 100 cows. The clan fought for me but I was only given back seven. I had to return to my parents home. I suffered but now I see widowed woman are not suffering in the same way, they go to PWC and find out what their rights are.
Relatives tried to marry off my daughter when she was 11 but I resisted. I went to PWC and my MP and the relatives stopped, they were scared they’d be put in prison for trying to marry a girl under 18. My daughter now has a qualification in animal husbandry. Education is a priority for me as I can see that girls who go to school understand their rights and people treat them differently. They have freedom to decide who to marry and what to do. PWC has sponsored another of my daughters. They're the only organisation in this district that's serious about girls education.
PWC has helped many women, and me personally, to promote our voices. If PWC ended women would become like orphans again, they wouldn’t have a place to run to."
Watch this video about PWC's 'Livelihoods through Livestock' project, which seeks to provide economic empowerment and to address poverty amongst marginalised Maasai women by providing opportunities to participate in income generating activities based on livestock.
Video by: Anne Oswald Moore