Several years ago, our family had the opportunity to visit Serengeti National Park and meet with local Maasai tribes in Tanzania. We got to learn about women’s roles in Maasai culture, African wildlife, and current conservation efforts.
We also witnessed challenges faced by wildlife in Tanzania such as habitat loss, poaching, and conflicts between humans and wildlife. With the expanding human population and the conversion of land for agriculture and infrastructure development to meet human needs, urbanization poses a dire threat to the natural habitats of wildlife because it reduces the available space for wildlife to roam freely and disrupts ecosystems. With this loss of natural habitat for wildlife and the expansion of human populations, conflicts between humans and wildlife escalate. Elephants, for example, occasionally raid crops, leading to conflicts with farmers whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. Predatory species like lions can also pose a threat to livestock, sometimes leading to retaliatory killings by communities. In addition, individuals turn to poaching as a way to escape poverty and receive an income. According to a 2015 study conducted in Tanzania, 96% of villagers said they would stop poaching if they received enough income through other means. For example, elephants are targeted for their ivory tusks and rhinos are hunted for their horns because these body parts are highly valued in the illegal wildlife trade.
Back in California, my sister and I had previously founded a free tennis camp for youth that focuses on female empowerment. In addition to teaching children the fundamentals of tennis, we introduced the concept of female empowerment by featuring female collegiate tennis players as guest lecturers. We were already making an impact in terms of gender equality at the local level but wanted to expand our reach on a greater scale.
Motivated by our experiences in Tanzania, we established a mission-driven company with the goal of strengthening Maasai communities by focusing on female empowerment and wildlife conservation. By supporting female-owned businesses within local Maasai communities and anti-poaching efforts in Kenya through partnerships with Love Is Project and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and as a proud sponsor of Team Lioness–an all-female ranger unit of Maasai women dedicated to protecting wildlife–at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, we aimed to create sustainable economic opportunities that alleviate poverty and reduce the incentive for poaching. Our mission is fueled by the belief that empowering women and preserving wildlife go hand in hand. By addressing the needs of both communities and wildlife, we strive to create a harmonious coexistence where sustainable development and conservation efforts can thrive.
Our latest initiative at Savanna Sisterhood focuses on providing sanitary pads for girls in need. We recognize the vital importance of menstrual hygiene management in enabling girls to attend school regularly and pursue their education without interruption. Through this initiative, we aim to address the challenges faced by girls who lack access to proper menstrual products, empowering them to stay in school and reach their full potential.
The Maasai, one of the biggest ethnic groups in Africa, is historically a pastoralist society. They are heavily dependent on cattle culturally and economically as cattle are used as a form of currency and as a symbol of wealth and status. The Maasai rely on cattle for basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. They view the land as a shared resource that can be used by anyone as long as it is carefully maintained for future use. For the land to regenerate, the cattle roam to new swathes of land with the changing of the seasons.
The Maasai are also a patriarchal society. Traditionally, a man’s duties include protecting and herding their livestock while women are responsible for milking the cattle and taking care of the home and children. In Maasai culture, women are considered to be a man’s property. They must marry a man that their father chooses, undergo FGM as a rite of passage to become an adult, and don’t have the right to an education since a women’s value is dependent upon having a husband and the number of children born.
In the modern era, the Maasai culture is threatened by the world economy. For example, cattle as a form of currency has been replaced by money and private ownership of the land has altered the way the Maasai care for their livestock. This has led the Maasai to pursue other avenues of income such as employment in the tourism industry with the increase in visitors to safaris and wildlife conservation centers. Tourism has helped alleviate the effects of the modern era on the Maasai, increasing the stability of the Maasai communities.
While visiting a local Maasai tribe, we saw lots of goats but no cattle despite their cultural and economic significance. Global warming not only raised the temperature but also caused a drought in the region where the Maasai tribe was located. Because of the lack of water available, the Maasai tribe switched from cattle to goats. This shift was necessary because cattle are less likely to survive in droughts and tolerate high temperatures than goats. Although the Maasai have been heavily impacted by the effects of global warming, there are other prospects for income.
GIRL POWER! The elephants in our logo symbolize the lifelong bond that exists between female elephants. Female elephants and their calves stay together for life. In preparation for motherhood, the older sisters look after their younger siblings so that they can learn how to properly care for their future children. Elephants are considered to be the strongest mammals on Earth. These powerful female elephants embody female empowerment because women–just like these elephants–are strong individuals, capable of achieving anything.
Our mission is to strengthen Maasai communities by focusing on female empowerment and wildlife conservation.
We buy handmade bracelets, made by female artisans in Kenya, and all the proceeds from each bracelet sold go to anti-poaching foundations in Kenya. The bracelets are made by Maasai women and they create a sustainable livelihood for Maasai tribes through financial independence for women, fair wages, water and food security for their families, education for their children, and access to healthcare and maternity care. We are also a proud supporter of Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an anti-poaching organization. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provides an enhanced livelihood for the park rangers and helps protect wild animals and habitats from poaching, bushmeat, illegal logging, and livestock intrusion.
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