The plight of girls in Loliondo
The societal norms and way of life of the Maasai community undermines and segregates women and girls. This is because women and girls are believed to not be worth the investment education wise since they are to be married and leave their initial families. This is a challenge for girls in pastoral and nomadic communities. It is very common to find majority of pupils in schools to be boys and fewer girls enrolled.
Within this school there are only 200 girls while there are 600 and plus boys, at the same time only 1% of the women can read and write while the majority cannot. Most women stated that girls are already promised for marriage even before they are born, hence as a result as soon as they are born the parents have already started to receive portions of the dowry. The fear of most parents is that once they take the girls to school who have being paid for dowries,
Nembris a mother of two daughters painfully explained during a meeting with parents the challenges that have led to having less women who can read, write and do arithmetic’s compared to men. “When a girl child is growing she already has being betrothed so the parents are just waiting for her to fail so that they can get the full dowry and she gets married” she further explained.
It was well stipulated by other women in the group that the men and elders of the community are a great barrier to a girl child leaning to read, write and do arithmetic’s. ”When a girl child performs well, the people who paid the dowry for her will demand back her dowry but by that time the elders have already spent it resulting in losses and fights”. It is due to this reason that few girls are enrolled and even few of them complete school while having mastered the 3Rs.
The fear of the community mostly the men and elders is that when girls are educated and can read and write they will refuse to marry the people whom their parents have already received dowry for. Nembris expressed that it is for this reasons that most women cannot read nor write “It is for this reason that we hide our girls from going to school or if they do go we encourage them to fail”.
Women want their children to perform well but they can’t support them well because they themselves cannot read nor write and the men hinder them from doing the same for their girl children. “I argue the men to stop practicing cultures that undermine the girl child and treating her like an object, a girl deserves to study like any other child” Nembris pleaded with the men.
Maria another woman in support of what Nembris had to say to the men concluded the topic by saying “If you educate a girl child you educate the community, even her children will be well learned for she herself is well read”.