Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Providing safety and education to young Maasai women facing female genital mutilation & forced marriages.

What is "Voices of Hope"? Voices of Hope is a non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities to vulnerable Maasai post high school young women in the Central Division of Kajiado District in Kenya.

Who are the Maasai?
Maasai people are found in southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. They are a nomadic people who live under a communal system. They move from place to place while searching for greener pastures for their cattle. Among the Maasai rituals, ceremonies include circumcision for both boys and girls. These rituals are believed to bring elevation from childhood to adulthood. Boys becomes men, while girls become women. Boys continue their education while the girls are married off in trade for cattle.

Why is there a need for VOH?
Maasai girls are considered to be providers of family labor and targeted for the traditional practice of early marriage in order for the family to gain cattle from a dowry in exchange for their young daughters. Since young girls as young as 8 years old will leave their homes to settle in their marital homes with their husbands, (who are often older than their fathers); the families and Maasai community choose to invest in educating their sons rather than their daughters. The education of girls and young women is seen not only as a burden, but a waste of limited financial resources.

Why does the program focus on helping young women? Young girrls that have managed to escape genital mutilation and forced marriages by attending charitable primary and secondary boarding schools have no means of safety nor possibility of post-secondary education after high school. As a result, they often return to their villages to endure genital mutilation and forced marriages; or they seek refuge in the city. With no marketable skills or training and no means to support themselves, they are often sexually exploited, become prostitutes, and fall victim to HIV/AIDS. Maasai Voices of Hope’s goal is to raise money to build a Safe Home/Learning Center for these young women in order to provide a protected safe haven for them to run to and a safe place to live while they are continuing their education.

How has "Voices of Hope" impacted the lives of young Maasai women?
Since its establishment in 2003, Voices of Hope has supported 28 young Maasai women in meeting their education goal of pursuing higher education. These young women had no previous means of continuing their education and were in danger of going through genital mutilation and arranged marriages. As a result of the intervention of Voices of Hope, these young women are now enrolled in colleges and local universities throughout Kenya and are being empowered to become change agents and positive leaders in their community.

How will the young women impact the Maasai Community?
The young wo
men participating in the VOH Program will undergo training in leadership development, health issues, HIV/Aids, community development, micro- entrepreneurship, spiritual formation, and personal/social skills for the period of time they are in school. Once they have gone through training and gained education and work opportunities they will be included as mentors and facilitators in future training, creating a cycle of giving back to their communities.

How does Voices of Hope impact the Maasai Community?
Drilling A Borehole & Building a Safe Home: Finding and collecting water is a major problem in the Kajiado district. A Maasai woman may walk five, ten or even twenty miles a day to collect water on her back for her family. It can take 10 hrs for a single trip.Voices of Hope has drilled a borehole on property that has been donated to the project with the goal of serving 350 families in the nearby villages and also one elementary school with 233 students.

Although Kenya passed a law prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation in 2001, Kenyan authorities have been slow to respond to the resistance to end FGM, resulting in the need to establish a permanent Safe Home/Center to shelter these women.

How can you Help?Donations in any dollar amount are much appreciated!

Sponsorship of Education: $1,200 per year or ($100 per month), will provide a young woman between the ages of 18-24 with safe housing, as well as one year of tuition and fees in an educational program of her choice. Two years of sponsorship will (in most cases) provide enough funding for the student to complete her studies.

Host a Voices of Hope Gathering -(A Party with a Purpose):
Invite Rachael Tengbom to come to your home, club, church or organization to talk about the Voices of Hope Project and share photos from her culture. Items from Africa will be made available for purchase and you will have the opportunity to learn more about how the Project is helping young women in Africa to become Servant Leaders.

For More Info. contact:

Rachael Tengbom, Founder of Voices of Hope at:
or Theo Dobie at:

Donations may be mailed to:
Voices of Hope * P.O. Box 6563 * Kennewick, WA


1 comment:

MC said...

This is a great project...I wish you the best....Cathy