Voices of Opportunity
As we drove up the drive to the Enelerai Primary School in the Mara, we heard voices singing and hands clapping, welcoming us to the home of the Women's Empowerment Complex. WE organizes villages around five pillars (Health, Water, Education, Food, and Opportunity), understanding that each pillar goes hand-in-hand in order for communities to reach long-term sustainability. As the Maasai villages become more self-sustaining, the need for additional hands back home on the farm or in the garden is reduced, and the Women's Empowerment Complex provides opportunity for an additional source of income for families so that their children can attend school.
At the complex, we met all ages of women, some younger than us already with multiple children either back home or at the school. A few of them carved and waxed traditional Maasai rungus, or throwing clubs, which were previously used in warfare or hunting but today are mostly sold as tourist items. Many of the women spent their day beading, a craft for the which the Maasai are particularly well known. The mamas were creating colorful beaded necklaces, headgear and bracelets, and in the Maasai culture, the beading is often symbolic and associated with rites of passage, such as the elaborate wedding collars for women (representative of their dowry) or vibrant necklaces the male warriors would receive for each lion killed (a practice outlawed in 2012).
In addition to the crafts the mamas create, proceeds of which go back to the various pillars, they are also taught life skills such as budgeting or animal husbandry, valuable lessons that can be passed on for generations of women (and men) to come.