Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Conceptual Framework For The Maasai Women Empowerment Program...



August 2014

1:0 Introduction and background information on the overall situation
1: General Overview about the Maasai situation Ngorongoro.
The Maasai  are one of the few ethnic entities still holding on to the traditional lifestyle in the midst of globalization. Despite the traditional nature of the Maasai culture, it is not immune to the change process from internal as well as external forces in ecological, political, economic and sociological terms. The pace of change has been slow until the last decade when the effects of the liberalized economy in Tanzania began to have impact on the Maasai livelihood systems. The speed of socio-economic change process, among the Maasai of Ngorongoro has been accelerated by the forces of globalization.
This change process has serious implications for such a traditional community which has been sidelined by the mainstream development process for many years since independence. Women are more affected by  these processes by virtue of their marginalized position in the Maasai community where women are relegated to the lowest social position.
Such implications range from poor participation in the educational development process in the country which means externalization from participation in the political arena which has a consequence in poor representation. The sum total result of which is lack of participation in the policy formulation processes. Up to now there is no policy on pastoralism which is the mainstay of the Maasai livelihood system. Reluctance of the government to recognize and support the pastoral economy of the Maasai has resulted in the scale up of impoverisation of the Maasai community over the years. This overview description is applicable to the Maasai community across the board in Tanzania.

1:2  The context of Ngorongoro District
The context of this proposal is Ngorongoro district  which is one of the five Maasai districts in the country.
This district is unique and different from the other four districts on one fundamental account, that is conservation of wildlife. The district is part of the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem and is therefore the home of many species of fauna and flora. The World famous Serengeti National  Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation area where the Ngorongoro Crater is situated are one of the most visited tourist destinations in East Africa. These two wildlife sanctuaries  have made the government to focus more on wildlife conservation at the cost of pastoralism without regard to the reality that the abundance of wildlife in these areas which interfaces with the Maasai life in the villages is attributable to the nature of the Maasai culture which discourages use of game meat hence preventing killing of wildlife. Maasailand is the only place where wildlife have found a safe home and friendly environment. This is attested to by the peaceful co-existence of wildlife and livestock in the Masai villages in the district.                            
Due to this peaceful and friendly co-existence between the Maasai and wildlife, most of the areas now used for conservation like Serengeti National Park were carved out from Maasailand, a reality which has caused alienation of prime land for pastoralism. While wildlife grazes in the Maasai villages, destroying crops and killing their livestock without any compensation, the Maasai livestock are never allowed to enter into the Serengeti National Park  for grazing even during very hard times. This is one of the factors which increase the level of poverty in this community.
Ngorongoro district is unique and different from other districts because most of the land in the entire district has been legally declared as wildlife conservation of one form or the other.
In the Ngorongoro highlands which constitute 59% of the total district, there is Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority. This area is governed  and managed by a government parastatal and yet there are over 80,000 Maasai living in this area. The Multiple Land Use is the model of management of this area. To balance conservation of wildlife and human development in this area remains one of the most challenging job in the area. The livelihood system of the Maasai in this area is strictly regulated by the NCA authority, impeding a natural community development process like in the other villages in Tanzania.
As if this is not enough, the remaining 41% of the district land area is yet governed  by another conservation legal framework. This area has been declared a Game Controlled Area with its restrictions on human development activities. This makes the entire district, a government conservation area where human development is hampered by conservation laws and policies. The overall impact on the socio-economic arena of the Maasai pastoralists is acceleration of general poverty.
Against this background, MIMUTIE WOMEN ORGANIZATION commits itself to put in place a women empowerment strategy to enable women to address challenges affecting their lives and their economic position in the community. Some of these challenges are caused by both internal and external factors and forces within the the Maasai cultural environment.
MIMUTIE WOMEN ORGANIZATION  strategically empowers the women through the following interventions through interventions in the areas of;
·        Cultural development of the Maasai pastoralists.
·        Improvement of the natural resource management through the use of the strategy of Community Based Natural Resource Management enshrined in the cultural framework.
·        Economic empowerment  by focusing on women empowerment and education of girl children.
This proposal is meant to enable ECEPA to implement the last component of its program.


2:1   Cultural Context

It is not possible to understand the concept of community based  development process in the Maasai community without  a fair understanding of the cultural context .

 The social organization system of the Maasai  is based on the age-set system. Boys of one age group are initiated into one age set and undergo cultural training during the entire period of their worrioship which is ten years. At the end of this period, they become fully knowledgeable about their own culture. This is therefore the way cultural values are passed and perpetuated across generational lines. This applies only to boys only.

Women are not part of this ceremonial arrangement of cultural training. Girls  are not grouped into age-sets like boys. As they get married, they take the status of  the age-set of their respective husbands irrespective of the age.This is where the social marginalization of women begins in the Maasai society.

The patriarchal nature of the Maasai culture relegates women to the lowest social status and this marginalizes them from ownership of property and control of the same. This male dominated social arrangement works against women development. As a consequence of this, few girls are sent to school as compared to boys. This accounts for the highest level of illiteracy among women compared to men. This has been proved by various studies.


By virtue of the partriarchal social organization of the Maasai society, women have had few opportunities to access formal education. Hence illiteracy remains a major problem which also externalizes women from participating in leadership  and decision making processes in the socio-economic development arena.  This also accounts for poor participation of women in the political representation.
In the socio-economic arena, decisions in terms of planning and implementation of development activities are carried out by men. This whole process is responsible for the current social status of women which is characterized by economic poverty and political powerlessness.


Statisticts demonstrate that in the standard 4  and standard 7 national examinations, girl children perform very poorly and in most cases drop out of school. The reasons for this can be listed as follows;

·        Poor status of the mother who in most cases takes care of the needs of her daughter.Fathers in most cases are not willing to support their daughters who are sent to school under the government pressure. For them, they want their daughters to fail so that they can be married off as soon as they come out of school.
·        Girl children who are mostly day scholars go back to their respective bomas where the cultural system encourages them interact with boys and participate in traditional dances. This makes them think less of education and do not even bother to do their homework.
·        Distance between school and the village can be 7 kms and children get tired walking to and fro without lunch. This discourages them to continue with schooling. They see this as the source of suffering rather than the source of happiness and hope.
·        Poverty of parents is also a factor. Some parents my wish to educate their daughters beyond the first level or even through the third level of education but they are constrained by poverty.
·        Poor quality of teaching environment in its entirety---few teachers, inadequate teaching materials, lack of books, etc.

There are many more reasons for this problem but these are the most fundamental ones.


The Maasai community practices transhumant pastoralism
which means seasonal mobility of livestock to access water and grazing in a context where land is communally owned and used for pastoral production. For the pastoral economy to be productive, availability of adequate water is a necessity. But up to now, the problem of water ranks as one of the most important and critical problems which constrain socio-economic development of the pastoralist Maasai in the Ngorongoro district. This problem takes a high toll on the livestock during the dry season every year. Human beings share the same water with livestock and wildlife in many areas. The amount of calories and time expended by women who trek long distances to fetch water for their families are immense. More than 80 % of the people have no access to clean water. Safe water does not exist at all.