By Honourable Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer, Q.C. On March 8th, which marked the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s day, I had the opportunity to visit Kajiado, a small Masai village located just outside of Nairobi, Kenya. During this visit I had the absolute privilege of interacting with the powerful, courageous and strong Masai women who reside in Africa’s Rift Valley.
As I am sure you are aware, International Women’s Day is a time when we all come together and celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world. Typically on this day we take time to honour those who have made their mark in the political, professional or philanthropic arenas. Although the achievements of women like the ones I met in Kajiado often go unrecognized these women truly exemplify what International Women’s Day is all about.
After hearing several women offer testimony, I quickly learned that the Masai women of Kajiado are not only the glue that holds their communities and families together but they are also patrons of peace and beacons of hope. Historically, these women have had little exposure to formal education, have battled gender inequality and have fell victim to practices such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
However, grassroots organizations like Amani Communities Africa have worked diligently to empower these women and generate awareness and understanding of women’s human and legal rights while at the same time providing them with the tools they need to effectively respond to abuses and violations.
My good friend Joy Mbaabu who is the Executive Director of Amani Communities Africa, introduced us to the leader of the Maasai group who was a beautiful woman named Agnes. Agnes spoke to us about the challenges Maasai women continue to face. She provided us insight into what a day in her shoes would be like and spoke about the responsibilities she had both inside and outside of her home. Much to my surprise, I learned that it is the women in these communities who are responsible for taking care of their families, tending to the cattle, harvesting the crops and for generating income.
The most important message that Agnes, and many other Maasai women conveyed that afternoon was the importance of educating their daughters. They acknowledged the fact that many of their daughters were now given the opportunity to attend primary school however they stressed the importance of higher education. The women I had the pleasure of interacting with made it clear that the future of their communities lies in the hands of their daughters as they would be the ones who would usher in sustainable change. Upon departing I asked the women of Kajiado what message I could convey to fellow Canadian’s they responded “help us educate our daughters and we will do the rest”