Maasai culture is one of the most intact cultures today. Despite modern influence threatening to dissolve their way of life, the Maasai have stood the test of time. and continue to persist in most of their traditional ways.
But while this unique factor of the Maasai heritage draws fascination from all across the globe, some of the deeply held beliefs and traditions practiced today are also harmful to girls and women.
The Maa culture is heavily patriarchal. Girls often start a life of domestic chores, unpaid work and family responsibilities as young as four. They are arranged into marriage as soon as they get into womanhood by way of initiation, and start having babies soon after that.
A majority of Maasai women, as a result, end up living a whole life uneducated, lacking basic human rights, self-esteem, and agency over decisions affecting their body, with little to no hope of any way out.
This narrative was not any different for the Maasai women in Esteti Village, Amboseli and Ilkimpa, Loita Kenya, who Lensational started to work with in 2018.
It all started with an encounter.
In early 2018, Lieutenant Col Faye Cuevas, who previously served as a senior executive in the international wildlife conservation sector, and is our current co-chair in Kenya, had an unfading encounter with ‘Mama Esther’, one of the leaders at Esiteti village.
It occurred to Faye that despite taking on most of domestic responsibilities, voices like mama Esther were critical in the face of wildlife conversation, yet were rarely heard due to cultural and language barrier. Photography could provide a medium for them to safely express themselves, transcending language barriers, while exploring their own self-determined identities. A partnership ensued shortly after.
Since we started our engagement with women from Esiteti and Loita villages, we have so far been able to train 26 women from each area. These women range from the ages of 13-60.