I joined The Maa Trust in 2017 as a volunteer after I had just graduated from Egerton University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Statistics. Looking for a job in Kenya is one hectic road that I knew I had to volunteer to acquaint myself with life after school and gain the much-needed experience required to get a job. I applied and was offered an opportunity at the Maa Beadwork leather department where I worked with the leather team cutting and finishing of the beaded items for sale.
In June 2018, in partnership with Dig Deep, The Maa Trust advertised for a job opening for a Water and Sanitation Project Officer. With a desire to continue working with the organization and the local community, I applied and was fortunate enough to secure the position.
As a WASH officer, my work entails organizing and undertaking community and stakeholder meetings, including conducting capacity building on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) and Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) with the communities and schools. I also do Monitoring and Evaluation of the WASH projects within the organization’s coverage area.
My experience of shifting profession from statistics to community development was interesting. Being born and raised from a pastoral community where gender insensitivity is high, and some issues like sanitation and menstrual hygiene are hardly mentioned in public especially to the opposite gender, I had to be brave, confident, and persuasive. Culturally, women are not supposed to discuss issues surrounding menstruation and hygiene with the girls in the presence of their male counterparts. This has led to a gap where most of the girls and women have suffered for long because their husbands and fathers did not know the challenges, or how to support their wives and daughters.
During community or school WASH and MHM interactive sessions, I had to break these cultural barriers and stand high above the societal expectations by engaging myself in training men and women, boys and girls on the importance of good sanitation and hygiene as well as proper Menstrual Hygiene Management. Being a Maasai man doing this work has helped to enlighten the community on gender roles and development. Besides being the TMT employee, I hope that I have also served as a role model to men and boys who aspire to educate their families by breaking through gender barriers.
I am thankful to TMT that even though I came to this role very green without experience, they have ensured that I have received all necessary training and they have never excluded me from fulfilling this role, despite me being a man. Gender norms determine jobs and roles deemed appropriate and inappropriate for men as well as women, but The Maa Trust has not discriminated because of my gender. As a result, today I have the knowledge and experience to train the community on WASH and engage women and girls on matters of menstrual hygiene with confidence and this is changing gender stereotypes and norms within Maasai communities.
Story by Kipila Simon, WASH Project Officer
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