October 10, 2013
The Wildlife Foundation Community Scout Moses Parmisa elevated his status in the community by bringing home a bride. Every young man in Maasai land is expected at a certain age to get married and start a family. This effectively elevates him to a higher level of respect than that of his peers who are not married. He can now then carry on with his affairs without interference. The community is then able to entrust his with certain responsibilities and leadership roles that he could not hold before marriage. Moses is of the Ilkineku age group. The age group traditional system is one of the community’s social organization systems that have been passed on from generation to generation to generation. Moses is now no longer a boy but a man!
His beautiful bride, Jane Koinato, too is from the same Maasai community. Koinato is educated, working and of a marriageable age. The young bride represents the E-Volutionized Maasai bride i.e. the brides that have experienced the Girl Child Education revolution in Maasai land. The Maasai traditional cultural systems are still very much alive and despite the interactions the community has had with numerous other cultures, their value systems have remained one of the least influenced cultures in Africa. These are deeply entrenched in its children and are passed on from one generation to the next with very minimal cultural erosion.
Despite their deep rooted values, the Maasai are also alive to the changing world and as they pass on their value systems to the next generations, they discard practices that pull them behind and embrace those that add value to their already existing value systems.
Education, especially that of the girl child is one of the modern practices that the community has embraced. A few years ago, Koinato would have been married at the age of twelve or thirteen as a fourth or fifth wife to an old man. She would not have gone to school and her job description would be taking care of the affairs her homestead like milking cows, taking care of her husband and children. Female Genital Mutilation was one of those passage rights she would have undergone before marriage. Not so today.
Today, Jane underwent alternative passage rights to become a wife. She is 25 years of age, has a college certificate and is working and Moses has no objection to her pursuing further education. She is a first wife to a young man who has no plans of taking in more wives. But even as she enjoys these, she too appreciates her traditional roles as a wife and mother and she is keen in building her family within the Maa value system. And on her wedding day, she adorned herself with both the old and the new. Her Maa traditional jewellery complimented her Victorian white gown strongly signifying the enriching of the old cultural system with modern practices that add value to the family set up.
I ask Moses why he married an educated wife and not a twelve or thirteen year old. In response, he says, “the law does not allow me and life is changing. A twelve year old has not yet understood the realities of life and is not mature enough to handle the responsibilities that come with modern day marriage set up.” He adds regarding the role of a modern Maasai wife, “she will be able to participate and contribute financially to the household. The economy no longer appreciates a stay at home wife for an average middle class family.”
David Sorimpan is also a scout for The Wildlife Foundation, a honorary warden with the Kenya Wildlife Service and Manager of the Olerai Conservancy, an 8,800 acres pristine wildlife jungle in our project area. David’s wife, Emily Sorimpan, is back in the classroom. Why?
Join us in the coming week as we follow Emily to class and meet other older generation Maasai women who are back in class. We are curious too as to why Sorimpan has sent his wife back to school. The Wildlife Foundation Wildlife Conservation Lease Program has seen a rise in enrolment of girls in schools by 54% in the project area in the past 13 years. We next look at how many older women enrolled in schools benefit from the Lease Program.