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Maasai women look on as men of their village demonstrate their jumping skills. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“The great thing is the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Journeys

While drinking my morning coffee, I read that today was International Women’s Day. My first thought was how the world has changed for women during my time on this earth.

I’ve gone from marrying young and being barefoot and pregnant to being a homemaker who also brought home the bacon – if you can call that progress. I successfully fought for equal opportunity and equal pay in the workplace. Today, I take pride in the role I played so my granddaughters can take such things for granted. .

And then I remembered the Maasai women I had seen in Africa just three years ago. These beautiful women have such hard, difficult lives that our native guide, who was not a Maasai, expressed sorrow for them – and called their men lazy turds. This remark came every time he saw a man walking carrying nothing and a woman walking behind him loaded down with water or firewood.

It is the Maasai women who build the mud and dung huts for the family. It is the women who walk miles every day for water and firewood, unarmed among dangerous wildlife. It is the women who milk the cows and cook the food and tend the children. And yet it is the men who own everything.

This young girl, looking on at the jumping men, is surely thinking she can do that, too. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This young girl, looking on at the jumping men, is surely thinking she can do that, too. -- Photo by Pat Bean

While I appreciate ethnic cultures, this is one aspect of the Maasai way of life that needs to be changed. And I make no apology for saying that.

I definitely thought this after a visit to a Maasai village in Kenya, where the men demonstrated a game they played with stones then noted that it was too difficult for the women to master. I was not impressed and huffed off.

But then a young girl in the tribe offered me hope that change might already be sniffing at the men’s heels.

It happened when the men were showing off their jumping skills, something young boys began practicing almost as soon as they can walk. Off to the side, where the shaved-head Maasai women stood quietly looking on, a young girl, ignoring the disapproving looks coming her way, jumped in rhythm with the men.

She, I thought, was the beginning. I hope one day she will be able to look back on how far she’s come, too.

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