A Maasai woman, pushing for change

By Kelli Rogers 11 March 2014

Maanda Ngoitiko leads the Pastoral Women's Council, which seeks to educate and empower the Maasai women of northern Tanzania. Photo by: Pete Brandt

There is room for change even in a culture you respect, says Maanda Ngoitiko, a leader who has challenged the status quo of what it means to be female in a pastoralist Maasai society.

Ngoitiko grew up in the traditional, male-dominated pastoralist community of Soit Sambu village in northern Tanzania, helping with the needs of her family and their cattle. To escape forced marriage and in hopes of continuing her education, a 15-year-old Ngoitiko ran away from home. After finishing secondary school in Dar es Salaam with the help of a pastoralist community group, she received sponsorship from the Irish embassy to further her education in Europe.

Ngoitiko then returned to northern Tanzania to work for a Maasai community organization, but she realized there was an urgent need for an organization led and managed by Maasai women, dedicated solely to addressing their strategic and practical needs.

She wanted to help girls in the same situation as she herself had once been in, desperate for an education but unsure of how to access one. In 1997, she helped found the Pastoral Women’s Council and has led the organization – now 6,000 members strong and two districts wide – ever since.

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About the author

Kelli Rogers@kellierin

In her role as associate editor, Kelli Rogers helps to shape Devex content around leadership, professional growth and careers for professionals in international development, humanitarian aid and global health. As the manager of Doing Good, one of Devex's highest-circulation publications, she is constantly on the lookout for the latest staffing changes, hiring trends and tricks for recruiting skilled local and international staff for aid projects that make a difference. Kelli has studied or worked in Spain, Costa Rica and Kenya.

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