Challenged by low literacy levels and a deeply entrenched patriarchal system, Maasai women have remained side-lined in the management of and benefits derived from Maasai Mara‘s rich natural resources.
Yet, in Kaagaa Naurori who six months ago was elected to the board of Naboisho conservancy, they have unearthed a steadfast champion and a keen communicator whose involvement has quickly become a stark reminder of what they may have missed for long. “I attended several meetings with women from other conservancies where we were informed that women needed to join the leadership of conservancies,” explains Kaagaa who confesses to being inaudibly dismissive bearing in mind the entrenched male dominance of conservancies’ management and cultural prejudices unfavorable to women.
“Naboisho conservancy members at the general assembly chose me to represent women. I was hesitant but they encouraged me to accept the role,” says Kaagaa. Although she had undergone some governance and leadership training organized by Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA), Kaagaa wasn’t so sure of her role at her first board meeting. “I simply decided to just listen and take back the message to fellow women.”
After the first meeting, Kaagaa attended a function at a local school where she requested the head teacher for an opportunity to make an announcement. “I knew most parents are members of Naboisho conservancy. I asked them to pass by my home so I could share in detail what we discussed at the board meeting that concerned them,” she explains. She did not expect the many people – both men and women who turned up. “To my surprise, I discovered what made people hesitant and doubtful of conservancies was as a result of lack of information.” She now takes advantage of any community gathering to pass important messages to Naboisho conservancy members whilst seeking their points of view.
As she masters her role aided by her ability to engage members and give feedback from the board meetings, Kaagaa is quickly transforming the communities’ perceptions toward conservancies. “I am particularly pleased that the issues of access to clean water and opportunities for women to market their beadwork are now agenda items for the board,” Kaagaa explains emphasizing that women walk long distances to access clean water and struggle to earn a living from their beadwork, matters they tasked her to articulate on their behalf.
Around the world, men and women use natural resources differently. As a result, they are affected differently by changes to these resources. Yet too often, these differences are not understood or acknowledged. This scenario is best exemplified in Maasai Mara where due to cultural practices, women have been denied access to resources, have limited power in decision-making, and their knowledge and ideas are often discounted.
Naboisho conservancy has proactively embraced gender considerations in their conservancy management. Championed by MMWCA, the purpose of gender inclusivity in conservancies’ management is to ensure that both men and women fully engage in, and equitably benefit from, conservation and livelihoods initiatives.
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