Ematonyok Women all
out to empower Maasai women economically
Vincent Obiro Orute Obunga
Success is known to occur where one has a drive to achieve a goal in
life. Born and raised in a rural village in Loliondo town of Ngorongoro
District in Arusha Region, about two and a half decades ago, Serah
Naisoi Kisemei was determined to make something out of her life.
It is with this in mind that after trying her hand at teaching at
various schools in Arusha town of northern Tanzania that she decided to
venture into social work and went ahead to launch Ematonyok Women
Network and Development Organization ( EWONDO) in 2007 to empower Maasai
women socially and economically.
For Naisoi, although she got into social work by default, but after
stepping in, there was no looking back. “I am at the right place at the
right time,” said Naisoi. Perhaps that explains how she entered the
unique career of social work and stuck to it like glue.
At one point, Naisoi said her career as a teacher was getting stuck. “I
tried to wrestle with my mind trying to figure out what to do and the
next move to make. It was from here that the idea to start a community
based development organization to empower Maasai women socially and
economically struck my mind and I decided to try my hand at it,” said
Naisoi. That is how the youthful Maasai woman’s remarkable story into
the world of social work began.
Due to widespread poverty coupled with high illiteracy rates in Loliondo
town, Naisoi took the first step and proposed the establishment of a
community based development organization for the benefit of the entire
community. It was from here that Ematonyok Women Network and Development
Organization (EWONDO) was born and came into being.
Naisoi says her organization aims to address these key issues that
affect Maasai women in Loliondo town through its core activities, which
include; HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, peer education in primary and
secondary schools, supporting a network of community health workers,
supporting young Maasai girls to acquire education, and to provide
Maasai women with training on how to initiate income generating
She says her organization plans to train Maasai women so as to build
skills in key areas such as pottery, woodcarving, beads making, and
leather work. It also plans to train Maasai women on how to save their
income through creation of rotating loan funds that are run by Maasai
women themselves and to establish work related training activities for
Naisoi says Maasai women have taken up new roles as family heads because
their husbands spend a better part of their lives looking after their
livestock –cows, goats, and sheep. According to her, Maasai women face
extra difficulties as heads of households considering that most of them
do not have even basic education to help them land sustainable jobs.
This according to Naisoi has reduced most Maasai women to social beggars
at the foot straps of poverty that is widespread in most rural villages
in Loliondo town.
“Maasai women need to be empowered to participate in social and economic
reconstruction of their communities. For this to happen, she adds, we
need the goodwill of charitable organizations, the government and other
“Our mission is to provide young Maasai girls in Loliondo with
education, proper housing, clothing, adequate health care and basic
nutrition along with daily necessities to ensure a better quality of
life and prosperous future to these young girls so that their parents do
not marry them off to old men,” said Naisoi.
Naisoi says when she launched her organization in 2007; her colleagues
and friends questioned her decision, wondering why on earth she would
venture into an unpopular field. But she had set her mind at it and
nobody could convince her to change it.
“Although Maasai women are fully involved in various income generating
activities, they face innumerable obstacles on their way to modern
development. This is because some customary laws still treat them as
second hand citizens,” said Naisoi.
She says the overall aim of her organization is to empower Maasai women
socially and economically through initiation of income generating
projects. “Maasai women have been excluded from formal financial
services for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most serious one is the
cultural bias which treats them as second hand citizens. At household
level, for instance, “male heads make most family decisions leaving us
defenseless,” said Naisoi.
Naisoi says that although most Maasai women are engaged in cultivation
of land and grow mixed crops such as maize, beans, bananas, and
vegetables, most of these activities are carried out by them as a means
of survival and not for economic gain or benefit.
“My organization works with women groups in Loliondo town that are
grassroots or plan to become locally managed and sustained. Revolving
loan funds created for and run by Maasai women to start small businesses
are examples of typical women economic empowerment projects that we seek
to support,” said Naisoi.
Ematonyok Women Network and Development Organization, is a community –
based development organization based in based in Arusha but operates in
Loliondo town, contact: E- mail: Ewondo@yahoo.com