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Becoming Maasai Women

Posted on 7/2/2019 12:00:00 AM in What We’re Watching

A note from independent filmmaker David Conover on why he chose this film:

Depending on where in the world a girl is born, her passage into womanhood can be something to look forward to, or something to dread. For the young Maasai women of Kenya and Tanzania, the coming-of-age ceremony has always been both. When it is time for a Maasai girl to become a Maasai woman, she dons traditional dress and undergoes the notoriously painful female circumcision, also known today as genital mutilation. Without this rite of passage, she will not be eligible to marry a Maasai man, and her future immediately becomes uncertain as she risks isolation among her community. At the same time, many circumcised women never have the opportunity to pursue their educations, as so many are married shortly after the ceremony.

James Ole Kamete, an elder Maasai man, and American Teri Gabrielsen came together in 2007 to create Africa Schools of Kenya and to take on this complicated issue. Alongside the Esiteti Maasai, they have developed mutilation-free Alternative Rite of Passage ceremonies that they hope to normalize within the community. In this film, James and Teri are joined by teachers as well as the women who once performed female circumcisions to talk with Maasai girls about the dangers of the procedure. Join the Estiteti girls as they dance and sing towards womanhood in a mutilation-free Alternative Rite of Passage. Balancing tradition and more humane practices is an immensely complicated undertaking. Educating young women and empowering them to make their own decisions is a powerful step in the right direction.

Produced by Emma Joan Morris

About David Conover:

David Conover, a long-term partner of O.A.T. and Grand Circle, is an award-winning filmmaker and conservationist whose work has appeared on Discovery Channel, PBS, and National Geographic Explorer. He is the founder of Compass Light Productions and the nonprofit Conservation Media Group, and was recently the Coastal Studies Scholar at Bowdoin College. Learn more about David here.

Learn more about the steps being taken to protect young girls with O.A.T. during The Best of Kenya & Tanzania.

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