When we took our campaign to the nomadic Maasai community, some living in the most remote areas of Kenya’s Kajiado County, women were amazed that the mobilizers were soliciting their opinion. In a County with deeply rooted gender inequality, they had seldom been asked what they wanted. Their loudest demands were for basic gender equality, especially an end to female genital mutilation (FGM) and better ability to control financial and household decisions.
The voices of the Maasai women influenced the County government’s gender priorities. Shortly following the release of Kenya’s What Women Want results, in 2019 Kajiado County became the first county in Kenya to launch a policy to end female genital mutilation. The policy mandates several interventions that make a concrete difference in the lives of women and girls: community campaigns highlighting the practice as a human rights violation, establishment of rescue centers and safe houses for women and girls at risk, psychosocial support for women and girls, and linkages to information resource centers and vocational training centers for access to information on sexual and reproductive health, skills development, and economic empowerment by FGM survivors.
The resounding calls to action made by Maasai women and girls, regarding their welfare and security, led the county government of Kajiado to allocate Ksh. 40 million towards a women economic empowerment initiative dubbed ‘Ushanga.’ Ushanga will provide small grants to 17,000 survivors of gender-based violence to improve financial literacy and independence. Women’s groups and gender champions are being actively consulted in the roll-out of the Ushanga initiative to ensure programs and spending are aligned with women’s and girl’s needs.
Other counties, such as Narok, are following in Kajiado’s footsteps—recognizing that when women’s and girls’ perspectives fuel policy development, resulting policies are more likely to have real impact.