A couple of weeks ago, we stayed in a Maasai eco camp. It’s purpose was to support widows, and young girls rescued from FGM, and forced early marriages. In Maasai culture widows are not allowed to re- marry, and so have no means of support. Although it is against the law in Kenya, FGM is still practiced by some tribes. ‘Female Circumcision’, it is more usually known as, although mutilation is a more truthful description. It leaves girls with multiple gynae and obstetric problems, which frequently prove fatal. The trauma of the procedure itself ( performed at 5 or 6 yrs) and then being married off at 10 or 11 to perhaps a 50 yr old man, in exchange for several cows, does not bear imagining.
A dynamic Kenyan lady called Helen, is a one woman crusade to stop the process and to provide the girls with an education instead. She has set up a wonderfully equipped school, with boarding provision for the rescued girls. Uniquely in Kenya, the children are allowed to wear their national dress ( a vital part of Maasai culture).
She seeks to hold culture in one hand and education in the other and demonstrate that both go well together, and are necessary for the future of the Maasai. Against fierce opposition and misunderstanding from her own, she nevertheless is doing a wonderful job, one child at a time.
We stayed in a traditional Maasai hut, made of mud, cow dung, mixed with bonfire ash ( walls, floor and roof). It was warm and snug against the cold of the desert night, and successfully kept out all animal, reptile or insect intruders. In the early hours we woke to the sounds of a large mammal sniffing around the outside, the tracks of which proved it to be a hungry hyena , probably attracted by the Maasai cattle. Prior to retiring, we sat with our Maasai hosts, around the camp fire, listening to stories of their culture and traditions. They also gave us expert instruction on what to do if faced with a lion or an angry elephant. Necessary, life saving information in that environment, but not training I ever hope to require putting into practice!