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JANE   

MERIWAS

In this society where the word for “life” is the same as the word for “livestock”, women take care of both the goats and their families and produce 80% of the food but don’t own land and are excluded from community meetings. This is why the Samburu Women Trust multiplies economic programs that encourage women’s autonomy and also organize information campaigns on women’s rights. Today some women even speak about this with men in the tribes and government representatives. This emancipation of the spoken word lets the women talk among themselves about taboo subjects like excision, the forced marriage of minors or the rape ritual. Jane hopes that one day communities will have no rituals. Women on this continent must learn to say “no”.

“Today women speak more openly”

Her destiny commands respect. She doesn’t tire of telling her story in a soft voice but with tangible determination. Nice Leng’ete is Maasai. She was barely 8 years old when she escaped from the excision ceremony. From that moment, nothing was the same in her life. She remembers the support of her grandfather and the sacrifice of her sister who stayed in the village. She committed herself to changing the mentality in her community. She spent 10 years convincing the village elders to take another look at this tradition by setting up an alternative rite of passage in which the young girls are celebrated and informed about their rights, especially in terms of education and health. But no more excisions! Amref, the first public health NGO in Africa, has helped 17,000 young girls avoid this sad fate and continue their studies. Since then, Nice Leng’ete has travelled around her country and the world to promote this non-violent alternative. She is currently thinking of getting involved in politics.

In 2019, the president of Kenya announced the launch of a “zero female genital mutilations” campaign by 2022 and 10 billion dollars to eradicate maternal mortality and the violence done to women and young girls, an assertive policy in this country where women in the communities dream of these practices being stopped.

“The alternative ritual transformed the community”

“When I see women’s eyes, I see resilience but also hope and determination”

The Samburu: A Study of Gerontocracy in a Nomadic Tribe 1st Edition, by Paul Spencer. At Routledge library edition, 2004

 

Masai and I, by Virginia Kroll and Nancy Carpenter. At Editions Aladin Paris, 1997 (Reprint)

 

My warriors and I : among the Samburu of northern Kenya, by Roger Stoakley. At Edition London Scriptmate, 1998

 

Bilakoro a film by Johanna Bedeau, Château Rouge Production

 

Une femme parmi les femmes (A Woman Among Women), by David and Judith MacDougall

 

Alternative Rites of Passage Ceremony, a film produced by the Amref association

THE LONG FIGHT AGAINST EXCISION IN MAASAI LANDS

TO KNOW MORE

WOMEN SEEK A BETTER FUTURE

Une quête de la vérité sur la route des larmes

 

C'est à l’hôtel Bonaventure de Montréal qu'ont eu lieu les premières auditions de la commission d’enquête. Fanny Wylde retrouve Cheryl, de la communauté Mohawk, sidérée par le désintérêt de la police pour la recherche de sa sœur après le signalement de sa disparition. Carleen, mère de trois enfants, sera retrouvée par hasard par un chasseur, sept semaines plus tard, à deux kilomètres de chez elle. Morte. Elle s'est suicidée. Cheryl s’interroge encore sur une forme de racisme, l’apathie politique et l’indifférence des médias qui font passer ces crimes pour de simple faits divers. Pour Cheryl et pour toutes les autres familles de victimes, la commission d’enquête offre une lueur d’espoir et de justice.

SCHOOL - OR THE CHANCE TO BE RESPECTED AS A WOMAN

In 2003, the government made primary schools free but families must pay between 100 and 200 shillings a month (from 1.3 to 2.6 euros) for school books, uniforms and teacher salaries - the height of inequality. This is an extra expense for a family who no longer has the girl’s contribution to domestic chores and livestock grazing. So the herdsmen prefer mobile schools. The class follows the back-and-forth rhythms of the nomadic herdsmen in these arid regions: a light is hung in an acacia tree and a blackboard is attached to the trunk. There also exist many rural boarding schools, mostly run by Catholics. Very much in the minority, girls still attend the schools thanks to NGO subventions including the Samburu Women Trust. These girls are very ambitious and dream of becoming doctors or teachers.

“School is the key to freedom”

KENYA:

MAASAI:

SAMBURU:

BOOKS:

FILMS:

THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT BE A HERDSWOMAN

Nomad camps, pitched in the middle of the rare scrub in this dusty region, remind us of a human presence. Jane was born into this hostile environment. As the daughter of a herdsman, she received a traditional education but an event shattered her destiny. One day when she was nine years old, nine of her goats were eaten by hyenas while she was watching them. For her father, she was now useless, he sent her to the Catholic mission. She didn’t return to her community until after her university studies to serve the cause of women. Since 2009, she has fought violations against women’s rights thanks to her Samburu Women Trust Organization association. Today she has earned the respect of the elders in her village. They have already forbidden the building of the traditional huts where sexual contacts between the morans and underage girls take place and they are now looking at alternative rituals. This is the beginning of an evolution of mentalities.

“Since my father considered me useless, he gave me to the school”

Since 2011 in Kenya, female genital mutilations (FGM) are forbidden as are forced and early marriages but in the semi-nomadic tribes far from the capital, these practices persist as do some that are even worse.

 

The Samburu people are semi-nomadic herdsmen who live in Africa’s Rift Valley.

Here the life of small girls can be summed up as hard labor: they walk sixty kilometers a day to find wood or water and they bring the livestock to graze. They don’t have the right to speak up and must also submit to ancestral traditions.

The first one is excision, a pre-marital ritual that, for the Samburu, symbolizes proof of loyalty. Then they must submit to a raping ritual that authorizes the young moran warriors, venerated as gods, to have a temporary sexual relationship with a girl from the same clan. It she becomes pregnant, she must have an abortion. Finally she is forced into marriage at a very young age.

This means that “a little girl is not considered to be a human being”.

But in the last twenty years, women from the community have been fighting to give women back their dignity and rights. These women dedicate their lives to convincing the elders to forbid these practices and allow girls to go to school.

For them, education is key for the emancipation of the Samburu woman.

Mentalities are slowly changing but it will take time until these practices stop completely.

“A little Samburu girl is not considered to be a human being”

THE SAMBURU WARRIOR AGAINST EXCISION

PRIMARY SCHOOL BECOMES

OBLIGATORY AND FREE

MAASAIS

PEOPLE

FEMALE GENNITAL MUTILATIONS (FGM)

ARE FORBIDDEN

EXCISION IS FORBIDDEN BY

THE MAASAI CHIEFS

OF GIRLS ARE EXCISED

OF WOMEN ARE EXCISED

OF WOMEN ARE EXCISED

OF GIRLS ARE MARRIED BEFORE THEY REACH 18

EVEN THOUGH THE LAW FORBIDS IT

MAASAI GIRLS ARE NOT EXCISED

THANKS TO THE ALTERNATIVE RITUAL

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2019:

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THE PORTRAIT

THE PORTRAIT

SEEKING A BETTER FUTURE

SEEKING A BETTER FUTURE

SCHOOL IS THE KEY TO FREEDOM

SCHOOL IS THE KEY TO FREEDOM

THE FIGHT AGAINST EXCISION

THE FIGHT AGAINST EXCISION

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JANE      MERIWAS

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THE FIGHT AGAINST EXCISION

CREDITS

SCHOOL IS THE KEY TO FREEDOM

SEEKING A BETTER FUTURE

TO KNOW MORE

THE PORTRAIT

THE SUBJECT

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