Even though the Massai women carry out the most important jobs in the Massai culture, they themselves enjoy hardly any rights. In the Massai patriarchal society, women have no place of authority. They are bound first of all to their father, and later to their husband. Marriage is closely connected to the act of female circumcision. In many Massai marriages physical abuse is the order of the day. Generally, women are regarded as “children” who have to be placed under male authority. In the case of divorce, women’s rights are placed second to those of her husband. In the case of brutality or neglect, a Massai woman has the right to petition for a divorce. However, the children remain with the father.
The Massai culture is in a process of change. The men are losing their identity as protectors of the kraals. As a result, women are often the ones that suffer. Through the rise in agriculture and the increased consumption of corn and vegetables, the work burden for women has increased. The search for firewood, milking the cows, the manufacture of pearl jewelry for tourists, bartering for corn and vegetables and working the fields are all tasks carried out solely by women. Traditionally they are also responsible for building their huts from clay and cow dung.
Help for Women
In September, 2006, three new women’s self-help groups emerged in different locations. The women receive assistance from “Help for the Massai”.