Photo Courtesy: Unknown
The deities were happy with them. They were doing what they could to show the whole world that they were the rulers and that their authoritative nature was from the deities above. Didn’t the ancestors tell them to never leave their roots behind? That the spirits would be angry if they get accustomed to new traditions that favored the women and pictured their virility as non-existent?
Rita took her bag and left for school. She was tired of all the tantrums that her people created whenever they saw her going to school. She wanted to shield herself from all the misconceptions that were part and parcel of the traditions of her community. She wanted to grow, yes, grow into something that no one in the land of the Maasai had grown into. She even changed her name and the people said that she had defied her culture with what the British had brought along.
Ngai Na-nyokie was surely very angry with girls like this who buried their traditions for a new belief that was shameful and contrary to the roots and norms of the Maasai.
For how long will we remain dominated by our men? For how long will we be prisoners? For how long will such barbarism last?
Growing in a male dominated society was a struggle for Rita who had the passion to succeed. She felt caged like a bird but her dreams were so big that she knew she could unclip her wings someday. It was her desire to be a lawyer so that she could transform her land, let the women know about their rights and ensure that Loliondo is a gender-equal area.
Born and bred in Loliondo, east of the world renowned Serengeti National Park, Rita was a full Maasai lady who was brought up knowing that Ngai was Lord, the ancestors were of supreme importance, cattle was pride, blood was life and male-domination was everything that the world would probably contain.
The oath that every time the men would play tricks on their women was a painful truth that Rita knew she would just have to be a warrior for the women of her society. She wanted them to know how much she valued their existence and she wanted to let them know that men could never be any greater than them. However, in such a community that was so much ignorant and buried in degeneration, would any change really take place?
In school, she was exposed to western education, people and different cultures that believed in a variety of issues that conflicted with her people’s beliefs. As far as her culture was concerned, without land and cattle, Maasai would not be Maasai. The western world way of thinking took a different dimension, for them, without education, the world was nothing but a fragile ecosphere.
She loved that her origin was well known all over the globe especially by the Westerners who always made direct contacts with them whenever they came to see the wild animals in the park. She loved that they were known as fighters but she hated the fact that the women could still not raise their voices.
She did not wish for palaces or a new Maasai community that was so westernized, she wished for a little civilization and gender-equality. She loved the Manyattas but she wanted a little modernization that would not directly affect the tradition but would improve on the outlook and also ensure hygiene.
She knew that this struggle could only be achieved through education. Education was the light of the future. This is exactly what St. Michael told her in school and she was anticipating a new beginning.
Yes, the sun would definitely rise.
She taught what she was told whether people took heed or turned more against her. She was elated to have tried. This was a journey of a thousand miles and it was this step that she took that would shade a new tomorrow.
September, two years back.
The turning point of the Maasai of Loliondo and a victory case for girls like Rita who wished and prayed earnestly for a voice of a certain Isina, Sankau, Naipanoi or Tentoyia to be heard.
Rita’s voice was heard and the dead spirits in the women’s bodies were resurrected.
The land conflicts that existed for over 20 years in the land of Loliondo finally achieved a breakthrough. This brought tears of joy from all the liberal minded people like Rita and a new light that women can also steer change.
This conflict had simmered due to the government allocation in the 1990s of their area for use by some foreign hunting company. This action did not look at the land as a land of the Maasai. It neglected the rights and usage of the residents thereby creating disunity and endless fights when this company began to interfere with the traditions and ways of the land.
A victim of circumstances watched everything unveil itself while still doing the only things she could afford to do for her community, teach.
The fights did not subsidize. People were injured, violence cropped up, food became a struggle for the starving population and turubali were required to protect the victims from cold. The fights widened in 2009 when the government evicted a large number of the Masai households leading to both international and national media coverage and criticism from associations and groups concerned with change, human rights and humanity.
Tanzania’s then prime minister, Mizengo Pinda had to visit Loliondo to announce that the land still belonged to the Masai and the community could never be evicted. This was a remarkable achievement that was fostered by both the men and the women.
Yes, the women who were seen as only the care-takers of households and cattle. Yes, the women who could never get away with male chauvinism. Yes, the women who never believed in modernization and change. These women that were rooted into obliviousness finally began to proclaim their rights and hold a social leadership role.
This year, when the national elections were being held in Tanzania, the country saw a large turnout of the women who have now realized that all that they needed was a new ray of hope.
In every community, there is always a face of change that may be a real individual or an intuitive path that a few of the blessed are directed to. This change may be a silent voice wanting to explode its emotions or it may be a loud voice still unheard. This change could be Rita