Currently, SAWA Kenya’s focus is on the villages in the II Ngwesi Group Ranch in Laikipia County, Central Kenya. The II Ngwesi Group Ranch villages are made up of primarily Maasai tribes. In the Maasai community in Kenya, less than 50 percent of girls are enrolled in school and only 10 percent of those girls reach the secondary school level.
Traditional Cultural Practices
Many of the Maasai communities in the II Ngwesi Ranch still practice traditional cultural customs, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage. Typically, in Maasai culture, girls undergo circumcision between the ages of 10-13 and are afterwards married off to a man chosen by her father in exchange for sugar, cattle, goats or cash. Girls have no say in their circumcision or in who or when they marry. If a girl is married off, her education is immediately curtailed.
Sexual Assault & Family Planning
Many of the girls in these villages are also not allowed to sleep in the same huts as their parents or brothers. In these communities, it is common for warriors, older men in the surrounding villages, to come to the girls’ huts at night and rape them. Many girls are impregnated at early ages by this practice. Girls stay awake late into the night fearful of the warriors, leaving them tired and unable to concentrate at school the next day.
Unplanned pregnancy is a very common problem among the girls throughout the villages. While rape and child marriage are prevalent reasons, the most common cause is simply a lack of understanding or access to family planning. Many girls are impregnated at young ages and with limited financial resources and access to childcare, they are often unable to continue attending school.
Gender Roles & Menstruation
Of the girls that are in school, many struggle compared to their male counterparts. Girls come second to any brothers in the financing of uniforms, school supplies and school fees. Most girls in school don’t have any access to feminine hygiene products. As a result, girls stay home from school during their period, turning to cardboard and other unsanitary options. Girls face innumerable obstacles in going to school, their education is not prioritized or valued.