Rescue us from HIV/AIDS-Maasai Community
Since creation, the Maasai people have caved a niche for themselves. Be it mode of dressing or in social life, they stand out to be different. It is still not known to many the origin of the Maasai people. According to a book titled “The Last of the Maasai” written by Messer’s. Mohammed Amin, Duncan Willets and John Eames, said no one actually know where they came from. “Maasai came from either somewhere north along the Nile or maybe beyond further east”, the book said.
But the Falasha of Western Ethiopia said the Maasai are Jewish, a long tribe of Israel that speak Maa as their language. But on a different account, the Maasai people live in Southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley on semi-arid and arid lands. They are semi-nomadic people who live under a communal system. The movement of livestock, which is the main occupation of the people, is based on seasonal rotation.
Apparently to sensitize the Maasai community a village that shares common boundary with Kenya on the dangers of HIV/AIDS disease’s, on October 2006 I and my Friends from Denmark and Uganda played host to Kimokiwa village in Monduri district, Arusha.
Mr. Brown ole-Suya, one of the board member’s of Afya Bora Mobile Service (Good Health is Long Life) and Maasai Women Development (NWEDO), a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) earlier gave an overview of the Maasai people before the visit. He explained that NWEDO was basically formed to bring attention to gender issues, especially to liberate Maasai women from unnecessary suppression.
Afya Bora Mobile Service ole-Suya said came into existence in order to look into the problems of health care and hygiene and suggesting proper ways of tackling them. The group also advocates the use of modern health facilities available in clinics and medical centers for treatment of diseases, maternal and childcare and supports the government in banning female genital mutilation and promoting HIV/AIDS awareness.
On arrival to the village, School children who apparently were observing break time, milled around closely to catch glimpse of who the visitors were.
The women, dressed in their normal traditional attire with elongated ear lobs, hung with beaded and metal ornaments, form a major focus for jewellery for both Maasai men and women. It was reliably gathered that when they are very young, modern plugs are inserted to stretch the slit lobe. The men dressed in silk apparel (Shuka) flown over their shoulder, with swords around their waist like warriors had a long slimmed stick to support their walk.
I told the village representatives the purpose of the visit. With the aid of an interpreter, the chairman of the village, Mr. Kishil Nabok expressed that the visit came at the right time when they were almost thrown on crossroads in understanding how best to handle HIV/AIDS cases that has visited the community.
“We were informed about the visit and after our discussion we can go for our business”, the chairman said, adding that it was a wrong choice of season to visit the village because most men have gone out with their cattle’s.
Dominating the discussion was the issue of HIV/AIDS and the use of condom. The HIV/AIDS committee member, Naisiriria Noah accepted the fact that the disease exist in Kimokowa, which was first reported in the village in 1998 “Some of us become sick and die and nothing has been done about it because we don’t have testing centres. We have traditional nurses who attend to our pregnant women during delivery without wearing hand gloves. We are confused”, she lamented.
To reduce the effect of HIV/AIDS, the major problem Kimokowa villagers have is on how to address the issue of young men and women, relating positively to each other without having to defile themselves in matters of illicit sex. Restricting some social gathering (Esoto) and social afternoon gathering (eloip) is a major headache Narparakwo Ormunderei, women chairperson said. Another factor that has increased the spread of HIV/AIDS in the community was hinged on the fact that most young men travel to the cities in search of white collar jobs only to come back affected with the disease.
The villagers are gradually transforming from its archaic traditions of men exchanging their wife’s with visitors of Maasai origin and age grade groups. The chairman said there is now growing pressure on some Churches to preach against social norms and give support to fighting HIV/AIDS. “Expectation on how to overcome the disease is bleak because we are helpless. Whether we will be killed by it, we do not know”, the chairman who dressed in safari wear, with a swagger stick in his hand told journalists.
A lot of seminars on HIV/AIDS aimed at sensitizing the community have been held in various occasions. But the terms used by the organizers Nabak said were initially difficult for them to understand.
The traditional midwife leader, Norkishon Lelitonyi said that there have requested that gloves be provided them to enable practice safe delivery without contacting HIV/AIDS. The issue of condom use was also brought to the front burner during question time. Most of the village representatives did not deny the knowledge of knowing what it is, but argued that it is totally out of supply in their environment.
Questions were thrown back to some of us especial my friend from Uganda to explain how Uganda has adopted policies to control HIV/AIDS pandemic. The visitors were entertained with a special rendition from both the women and men before departure.
My am hereby requesting the Governments and an NGO’S to give support these two NGOs the Afya Bora Mobile Service (Good Health is Long Life) and Maasai Women Development (NWEDO)