You probably know me through my previous campaign here on Indiegogo: 'Stephanie’s Masai Education Fund', with which I was able to take our community leaders to a seminar on land management and conservation in Kenya.
For those of you, who don't know me: Hi, I am Stephanie, married to a Masai warrior and resident of the Masai village of Lesoit, Tanzania for over six years.
Now, while our previous project is still running and we are actively making a difference in the way we look after our land, I would like to help our community further with a look at the essence of development : education.
Masai culture is strictly divided between the sexes and there are certain practices and beliefs that go against the mental and physical development of women and girls and I would like to change this.
Early marriage or child marriage is one of these practises. Masai girls are often married off as young as 12 years old - their fathers keen to get the 12 cattle the future groom has to pay for his bride. It is one of the reason why the number of girls attending school is much lower than the number of boys.
Another reason is that Masai parents do not have the education and foresight to understand the longlasting benefits their children's education will give them. They therefore do not push them to attend school regularly or even keep them from attending at all. This is especially true again for girls. Unlike boys, girls face a multitude of challenges that keep them from attending school. One of them is the fact that they have menstruation every month. While this is not an issue for female pupils in the First world, it is a major hurdle for girls in the Third World.
Why is this?
Because these girls often live in rural parts of their respective countries as is true for our primary and secondary school in our village of Lesoit, which is far of the beaten track. They do not have access to sanitary products as we do. The girls from our school may be able to get them in a village which is an hour's walk away, but supply rates are low and irregular.
The quality of the products is also very low and often causes itching or rashes. Again they are expensive. The Masai have no regular income as they depend on their cattle as a means to get funds to buy corn, their staple diet and vegetables and other things they might need.
Often they simply do not have the means to buy sanitary products but if they do, there is another major hurdle they have to overcome. And this hurdle is called: stigma. Stigmas born out of ignorance and the ancient beliefs of their tribe.
They cannot approach their fathers who according to Masai tradition own all the cattle (the women have no rights to them) to ask them to buy them pads for their menstruation. It would be shameful, it is something that the girls would never dare. So they help themselves by stuffing their underwear with leaves or cowhides or scraps of cloth instead.
If they choose not to do that, the only other option is to stay at home and miss a few days of school. It has not only an effect on their efforts to keep up in class but also on their mental wellbeing. It is stressful and depressing to have to worry about your oncoming menstruation.
This is what I would like to change with this campaign and with your help. I would like to bring to the 300 girl students we have in our local primary and secondary school, a reusable washable sanitary kit each. These kits are made here in Tanzania and contain everything a girl needs to be hygienic during that time of month: Two pairs of underwear, two waterproof shields, six washable cotton pads, a bar of soap, and a bag for storage. Each kit costs 9$ and will be specially made for us.
Receiving these kits will make a huge difference for the girls' comfort and confidence and incidentially on the way they study. Another huge benefit of these kits compared to standard sanitary products, is that they are environmentally friendly. No plastic waste, no single use.
Masai society is patriarchal and women are overlooked and often even oppressed. Sending girls to school and ensuring that those already in education, understand the opportunities this gives them, is crucial towards lifting Masai women from their low status and changing their role in Masai society.
I am living in their midst and experience the many challenges these beautiful women have to deal with on a daily basis. I want to lift them up, empower and educate them so that they may become leaders in their communities and work towards making them safer, more comfortable and more economically productive places to live in. I believe women are the changemakers and I will continue to try my best to encourage them to start believing in themselves and in the fact that they have the power to change their lives for the better.
I start with this small step and hope that you will support me in doing so.
We have beautiful gifts waiting for you in exchange for a small contribution towards our cause. From Masai bracelets and blankets and earrings to an amazing immersive cultural stay at our boma.
Please do consider supporting us and do tell your friends and family about this campaign.
We need your help with spreading the word so that we may succeed in making a difference.
A big thank you to all of you!
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