The Maasai-like many communities in Africa- revere certain traditions, many of which have been passed down for centuries. Central among these traditions is the attitude towards the girl/woman in the Maasai society and particularly the interrelated practices of child bride and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Maasai girls undergo FGM from the age of ten years and upwards. After undergoing this painful operation, they are considered to be adults and can therefore be married off in exchange for cows which are highly prized in this pastoral people.
Though against the law in Kenya, FGM is compulsory in some Kenyan communities and marriage withing the community cannot take place for one who has not undergone the ritual. The practice of FGM is done without anesthetics (often using the same knife) and exposes the girl to various health(physiological, mental and psychological)complication
Female genital mutilation has also been cited as a determinant in the spread of HIV. The use of the same equipment during the FGM facilitates HIV/AIDS/STD transmission. Since the cutting is normally a social ritual, there are many girls being cut at the same time and sterilizing of equipment usually does not occur. The girls who undergo FGM are married off immediately-mostly to older men who have the wealth for dowry- and here again they are likely to be married by infected people.
Voices of Hope has provided another option to young Maasai women in Kenya. As a result of the intervention of Voices of Hope, young Maasai women with sponsors are now enrolled in colleges and local universities throughout Kenya and are being empowered to become change agents and positive leaders in their community.