The Masai woman’s story

It’s not a new thing anymore; you open the newspaper or visit YouTube for the latest TED sessions and you know all about the horror of female circumcision. Not the most joyful subject but let it be the one thing that isn’t to be discussed with the Masai. A huge trigger for a writer like me. But let’s take a step back first. The circumcised lady was born a small, innocent baby.

The precious little human being was born in a warm nest of love, surrounded by the many arms of female family members. If you’re blessed with a strong health, growing up as a girl you might favour the Masai tribes. Can you imagine the infinite space to play on? The world as your arena to run around with your neighbours puppies and do head rolls in the greenest fields of grass you can ever imagine. At all times there are two arms to pick you up from the ground and embrace you with deep love and care. Sit down and crack the fresh fruits and meet your strong dad got you. No child needs money if you have all this. However, the high level of poverty is one of the many obstacles Masai girls have, to get an education. From their villages to the nearest school is an average walk of two to five hours, which is unsafe to say the least. And since the girl will become a member of her husband’s family after marriage, the biological family won’t benefit from any education. But if your mom is headstrong and she gets you into school, there is a change of 80% you will drop out after the age of 9. Then they are no longer allowed to stay in the same house as their father, and instead sleep in a separate hut. With the lack of supervision and the ignorance of the girls about the birds and the bees, they have a high risk of being disgraced by their family because of an early pregnancy.

Especially for the male readers I’ll briefly explain why the female circumcision is such an important detail in the life of a Masai woman: this is the moment where life changes! The ritual will take place when the girl is between 11 and 13 and immediately after she will marry the man chosen by her father, in exchange for some cattle and cash. Which is not a bad thing, considering their – very intriguing! – punishment system. If you accidentally put to sleep a married man, you owe the head of the village 49 cows. For a single man or a married woman, this is 39 cows and for the single ladies nothing over 29. A small fee.

93% of the female Masai have to live with the consequences and benefits of the old-fashioned traditions. She lives a nomadic but busy lifestyle joining her new family. Her husband’s other wives will bring her a support system, protection and some laughter. Together they will raise cattle and goats, build the fence around their village, construct their mud huts, cooking for the family, collecting firewood, give birth, supply water and make money by crafting jewellery. While doing all this they dance and sing loudly, something they love to show off.

The effects of modern civilization and western influence hasn’t completely passed them. More Masai man are now also offering their crafting’s in the larger cities. But even better would be to visit their homes and attend one of the shows the woman will most certainly give you. While exploring the countries wildlife, you can get to know the merry spirits of the Masai people. And.. it’s an ideal opportunity to buy the jewelry first hand.





This blog was previously published on

A winner is a dreamer that never gives up – Nelson Mandela

Traveling through Kenya is so much more than just visiting different destinations, you’re going through a change in the deep and permanent ways of life. From the mountains to the beach, from the desert to the national park. From too much money to count to complete misery in such large amount. From new initiatives at world level to habits from back then. Where terrorism is highly feared, but Hukuna Matata the most famous word on an international level. Kenya leaves you speechless, which gives me new stories to tell.

When you visit the Maasai villages – which are the most traditional tribe in Kenya – the interpreter tells you about their way of living. For example about the fact that many men have an average of five wife’s and thereby taken into consideration that the woman is doing all the work; from taking care of meals and children to building the “houses”. They explain how the men learn to protect their cattle from lions, hyenas and all other wildlife. After a first slaughter you are to be seen as a real man. Interesting theory. Even more interesting is how these men win over the lady’s to become their wife. Of course, this depends on your wealth and what you are willing to pay for the woman in question. You’re allowed to be married as soon as the woman is circumcised, which takes place immediately after the first menstruation. But personally I was even more intrigued by their punishment system. If you accidentally murder a married man, you owe the head of the village 49 cows. For a single man or a married woman, this is 39 cows and for the single ladies nothing more than 29 cows. A small fee. The fact that they are housed on Kenyan land does not mean that you are hold responsible by the law of the country. Culture is still leading and the tribes govern politics, the future, the business world and everybody’s private life. But if you think it’s all underground, you’re wrong. That applies to (too) many subjects in this country. For example, people told me that they were transporting ivory, which political personalities are responsible for importing drugs, about the illegal ways they used to ensure they were able to fulfil their current position. Mothers rent out their babies to beggars, clean drinking water is just known in the cities of the richest tribes and houses are built of clay since 70% of the country’s population still has to live off one dollar a day.

For me, the everyday life is kind of bizarre. I recognize the faces of business relations in newspapers, I meet the entire crème de la crème of this country, yesterday I sailed the sea, tonight I will go on safari and at the time of writing I’m staring at a beautiful lake full of flamingo’s enjoying my African wine. Happiness is easy to define. One finds happiness in small things. A smile, a song, a word. And then you know you’re blessed.

The splendour is indescribable and endless. The creators of Lion King where inspired by Kenya for good reasons and to behold the migration with hundreds of thousands of animals crossing the border between Kenya and Tanzania is something no human will ever forget. Safari’s will never be boring and to run into an elephant over here is just a little bit different from your local zoo. Wherever you are, the rest of the world will slightly disappear from your memory. Sharing this experience brings new friendships and together we jump from one overpopulated pub to another, all trying to get familiar with the horizontal dancing style. The weekends you spend in nature are a yin / yang to daily life in Nairobi, both of which can be a relief. Toilets don’t grow on trees and hanging in a dark wooden cabin with moths starting a boxing contest with your femininity, my crappy apartment in Nairobi suddenly isn’t so bad at all.

A new start is about to come, it won’t take long or I will again find myself in a whole new storybook. Right now half of my mind is still in the Netherlands, I got my sight focused on Kenya but I can’t wait before I can smell the flavours of a completely new destination. Although this country isn’t perfect, in 1963 a little diamond was born.