Cattle Ownership: The next frontier for the Maasai Women.
The Maasai Community who occupy most parts of Kajiado and Narok Counties in Kenya are known for practicing pastoralism. The Maasai owns large herds of cattle. A cow is a sign of social prestige for the Maasai men. Traditionally, all the cows in the homestead belong to the man. Actually in the Maasai community, the man owns the cattle, the woman and the children. All are presumably “owned properties” for the man. In the Maasai community, a man with a large herd of cattle, many wives and children was considered very rich and accorded high esteem in the society. Cows are very dear to the Maasai men.
The domineering attitude of the men in the community and the sideling of the woman in the ownership of assets which are mainly the cattle in the family, had really affected the women and rendered them just participants and not decision makers in a home. This therefore made them housewives with the duty of cooking for the family and taking care of the children. This made the women totally depended on the men.
The coming of AAH-Kenya to the Mara sought to restore dignity on the women by helping them to also become contributors of the family economy. AAH-K sought to achieve this not by jeopardizing the position of the men but helping them understand women can equally contribute positively to the running of the family if given a chance. Mara Community Livelihood Improvement Project has been training women in Mara on entrepreneurship and financial management, also funding them to women led enterprises.
Elerai Women is one of the 27 women groups that were supported by AAH-K to start small micro enterprises. The group with a membership of 15 women were able to successfully start businesses that are earning them a living and helping them to equally provide for their families. The group used the money given to them by AAH-K as a revolving fund and were able to turn it into gold. The group has disapproved the general belief that it was only men in the community who could own cows and has now bought 8 of them. Their men could not hide their joy in seeing that their wives could do business, earn profit and use it to buy cows. They have now started supporting them by taking care of the cows and the women are now highly consulted in any decision making at home.
“Our men are very happy with us as they never believed a woman can own a cow. Our husbands have to talk to us before they sell any animal at the home. I now talk and plan things with my husband, including paying of school fees for our children.” Noorparakuo Musanka