In Their Own Words...
Girls tell us about traditional Maasai culture
Is it ok to educate Maasai girls?
"In Maasai culture, they usually believe that once a girl is education, she will take all her wealth to the husband’s home. This means that the education of a girl is usually not of importance. After primary school (age ~12) it is common for the girl to be married, so that her parents can get the dowry."
How does a Maasai family live?
"If the husband has adopted the custom of having multiple wives (polygamy), everyone tries to live in harmony so long as the husband is fair in the way he attends to each wife. He should not favor one over the rest. Every wife has her own house but they are in the same area. The husband spends his night in the house of the wife who does not have a suckling child. When the man grows old or his children are grown, he will build a home of his own in the same locality."
Can a Maasai man remarry?
"Yes. A Maasai man can marry more than one wife and this will depend on him. Marrying more than one wife happens if the man is wealthy, if the wife is barren, or if they couple is unfaithful to each other."
What is the role of a woman?
Responsibilities for Maasai women:
* Fetch water and firewood
* Prepare food for the family
* Building housing
* Milk cows and clean their sheds
* General home cleanliness
* During ceremonial acts, participate in organizing singing and serving everyone.
At what age does a girl wed?
"Without considering education, a Maasai girl should be married at the age of 15 years old. This is the time when she enters into her adolescence stage. She is usually given away at the age of 15 so that her parents do not have to get involved in a hectic time of trying to control her during puberty. The husband who has "reserved" her as a bride at her birth is then called to take her away and teach her how to behave like someone’s wife, and not like an adolescent girl."
Important to obey the husband?
"The women is mercilessly beaten with heavy weapons and then taken before the elders to answer questions laid forth. After that she either apologizes to the husband even if it is he who wrong, or goes back to her family. If a woman continues to disobey her husband, she will be beaten again and given a divorce. Her husband will take the children. This woman will be regarded as a harlot in the community: no one will be allowed to socialize with her since she is an outcast."
Does a woman have rights?
"No. This is because women are seen as valueless in their communities. Women are inferior in that they are viewed as vessels for obtaining wealth and serving their husbands and children. When there is a crisis between the husband and wife, the wife has no right to speak out about the wrongdoings of her husband. All she can do is accept everything. From the time of marriage, the woman has no right to say anything but to accept the husband’s choices."
Can Maasai women remarry?
"No. A Maasai woman can marry only once. If she and her husband live together in love, only death will separate them. If they quarrel, the wife can leave him and go back to her parents. If the parents do not receive her back in the family home, she can live alone and provide for herself. If a husband should die, the wife still cannot remarry. She can choose to remain at the husband’s family home, or return to her parents."
Are Maasai girls circumcised?
"In the Maasai community, girls were forced by the elders of the community to be circumcised, which is harmful to their health. Also according to their culture, they must pass this rite: failure to do so and they will be rejected and isolated from their families. The Maasai believe that it is advantageous for their girls to be circumcised so that they may lose the desire for sexual intercourse, which will reduce early pregnancy."