The fact that I could cover my expenses for renting the car with your donation, made it possible for me to drive to my village and to those around it. I used this opportunity to catch the life of the Maasais' in photographs and also had many discussions about the topics of my projects with the people of the villages. It made me both sad and happy, to find out how they see the subjects of menstruation hygiene, safe child birth and FGM.
I asked them many questions to find out how they see the problems. These discussions reminded me once again how deeply these issues are tied to their tradition. Especially the FGM (Female Genital Mutation) has very deep cultural meaning and they don´t see any harm in this ritual. They see the circumcision as a necessary ritual for the girls in their path to adulthood. In fact it is seen as so necessary, that a woman cannot get married or have children without going through this ceremony, because otherwise they are not seen as women, but children. In the traditional point of view, a Maasai girl has no other way to reach the stage of adulthood in her life.
Then the hygienic standards, especially during labor is a big problem as well, and very often not taken seriously enough. Often the villagers have preconceptions about the governmental hospitals. This is unfortunately often because they have some previous bad experiences of getting bad treatment there, and private hospitals are often too expensive. This being said, many of them feel more comfortable staying home. This leads to a situation where many of the women give birth in surroundings that don't meet the hygienic standards and can be very dangerous.
Another reason for staying home to give birth, is that most of the women have other children, who also need to be taken care of. As taking care of the home and the children is traditionally a woman's job, they cannot leave to a far away hospital to give birth. Hospitals are often far a way and transportation is a problem of it's own, so to give birth in a hospital, they would have to travel to a city well ahead of time. Many of the Maasai women have never used buses or had to drive anywhere, and the means of traveling away from the village are very limited to start with.
However, when I talked with them about the dangers of the childbirth under the circumstances the village has to offer, they refused to believe my words. They replied for example with sentences like: “You were born too in a normal village without medical help, and you are still alive, so now you come and talking about that it is dangerous and not safe?”. I could see how difficult it would be to make them even consider other options. Even when I talked about all the children and women that died during labour, they just expressed their belief that the same happens everywhere, including hospitals. So they don´t see the need to go there in the future either.
When it comes to the topic about menstruation and hygiene, they are in a miscommunicating situation. The women have no sanitary products to make them feel even slightly more comfortable during this time in the month. They simply change their ways of going about their days, because they are ashamed and feel dirty. As ruthless as it may sound, they can't even communicate about their problem with their men, because they think that the men can´t do anything for them and that it's their own problem to solve, not the ones of men. From my own experience the men are open to help their women with sanitary products, if the women would only talk to them about these issues. Many times the men are not educated enough to know how to help their women with their period, so they also don´t know what kinds of action to take. All in all I was very happy to see that men are very open to help their women, if there would only be communication and solutions for Maasai women for their monthly menstruation.
I was very surprised of some answers and some of the views that the villagers have. Because I am a Maasai myself, I thought that I do understand how they see these things. But the trip showed me again, that there is still a lot of work to do. Through this experience I realized more how we could solve some of those issues step by step. The experience opened my eyes to different possibilities to deal with their views in such ways, that would lead us to change little things they accept, and getting closer to the communities through the process. I am very grateful that I had this opportunity through your help, thank you to each and every one who donated for this important cause!