Dates: June 2020 to present

Role: Funder and Educator

The Story

Most women of Kenya have no voice because they live in a culture of male dominance. They are taught that the man is physically, intellectually, and morally superior to women. Sadly, this culture and the belief that women are subordinates has been instilled in the minds of children from a very young age and it goes back many generations. The type of oppression they experience varies based on their location (urban, rural, slum, etc.). For example, women of the semi-nomadic Maasai tribe live adjacent to the Maasai Mara which is a National Reserve and home to African wildlife. Melissa spent time with the men of the Maasai tribe in July 2019 and learned that Maasai girls are usually circumcised between the ages of 11 and 13. Shortly after her father will choose a man to marry her in exchange for cattle and cash. Although Melissa was saddened by reasoning for female circumcision (so the woman will remain faithful), she found the Maasai men to be very welcoming and enjoyed their openness to answer her many questions about their culture and sexual health beliefs.

Because the Maasai women live in the wilderness, they have limited access to commercial sanitary products. According to Maasai Girls Education Fund, some Maasai women are given a piece of fur for their first menstrual cycle and the same piece of fur is used during their life of menstrual cycles. The girls are required to “pound out the fur” due to a lack of running water. An educational program will also be incorporated because only 48% of Maasai girls attend primary school and 10% continue for secondary school.

The Impact

In June 2020, Melissa Dahir partnered with Cindy Berkland and Margo Fischer to fund a reusable menstrual pad project and educational program for the Maasai women of Narok, a rural town west of Nairobi along the Great Rift Valley. In Kenya, several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) have implemented programs to improve health and prevent HIV, but these efforts are largely focused on the major cities. As a result, rural villages are often neglected due to limited resources and their underdeveloped infrastructure. The goal is to develop a self-sustaining project so the locals can earn money sewing the pads and supply reusable pad to the Maasai women.