There is room for change even in a culture you respect, says Maanda Ngoitiko, a leader who has challenged the status quo of what it means to be female in a pastoralist Maasai society.
Ngoitiko grew up in the traditional, male-dominated pastoralist community of Soit Sambu village in northern Tanzania, helping with the needs of her family and their cattle. To escape forced marriage and in hopes of continuing her education, a 15-year-old Ngoitiko ran away from home. After finishing secondary school in Dar es Salaam with the help of a pastoralist community group, she received sponsorship from the Irish embassy to further her education in Europe.
Ngoitiko then returned to northern Tanzania to work for a Maasai community organization, but she realized there was an urgent need for an organization led and managed by Maasai women, dedicated solely to addressing their strategic and practical needs