The Unite for Body Rights project (UFBR) has devised a unique way of reaching out to the Maasai youths who are initiated into moranhood to hold interactive sessions with them about their sexual reproductive health and rights.
The project, funded by the Dutch government and run by Africa Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) has been facilitating forums in the bush in which trained peer educators discuss issues to deal with sexual life, risky sexual behavior, sexually transmitted infections, harmful traditional practices and other issues that affect the sexual reproductive health of young people in the maasai community.
The trained peer educators are also part of the age set selected by the Inkopir (older men appointed to oversee moran activities and represent their fathers) and trained by the project in facilitating participatory sessions on the issues. With the support of the project goats are provided which are consumed by the Moran as lunch.The goats are prepared by the Moran in their traditional ways and herbs and traditional medicine are mixed with the meat.
The project seeks to help Moran realize safe and informed decision regarding their sexual reproductive health. The decisions include choosing to use condoms, reducing stigma and discrimination against uncircumcised Maasai girls, going for HIV counseling and testing and seeking medical help in cases of sexual transmitted infections and other reproductive health related medical issues.
In view of this, the project has been facilitating a medical practitioner to perform the counseling and testing on the Moran who opt for the test after or during the sessions. The medical office also helps in answering technical health related questions.
The bush sessions provide a forum for the Moran to learn and also share their experiences with each other. Facilitated in Maasai language, the sessions reach out to Moran in their socially accepted habitat and are tailored to fit into their lifestyle in order for them to accept the problems and come up with solutions with the aid of trained peer educators.
Apart from taking time to participate in the sessions, no other aspect of the moran lifestyle is interrupted and therefore acceptance of the issues and participation in the process is enhanced. The Moran’s are at a very high risk of contacting and spreading HIV/AIDS and other STIs due to their culturally defined roles and conduct.
Culturally, the Moran’s are allowed to hold cultural dances at night in different bomas(Manyatta). Girls are allowed to participate in these dances and premarital sex is encouraged by a number of practices in the culture. The dances are usually highly explicit and the Moran who knows how to dance the best or the one who is the best soloist is respected and admired by the girls.
Other issues in their lifestyle include the fact that they have a lot of free time and therefore move from village to village. This encourages them to have multiple sexual partners. The culture also encourages girls to have multiple sexual partners and those who receive less or no attention from the Moran are frowned upon by their age mates.