Nicholas Olivera/ Contributing Writer
A student-led initiative at the University wants to bring education and sanitation to the Maasai, a tribe indigenous to the deserts of Loitokitok, Kenya.
The Seeds of Change Initiative was started by two of FIU’s own juniors: Susana Guzman, an international relations major, and Alexandra Castillo Escobar, a public relations major. The two of them have teamed up Angely Requena, a junior political science major from the University of Miami, as well as the nonprofit organization Prints of Hope International.
Escobar says of the Initiative’s decision behind teaming with this organization, “They have been active since 2000. Their focus is on children; that’s why we thought we should partner with them.”
Together, they hope to use education as a weapon in their fight to put a stop to a common practice for the Maasai people: the circumcision of young girls by removing their clitoris.
For these people, it is considered a rite of passage for girls that are transitioning into womanhood. It is a painful procedure, done without the use of anesthesia. In addition to this, the same blade is often used for most of the circumcisions.
The three students believe that through proper education can they make a breakthrough with the Maasai, ultimately showing them that their gruesome custom of circumcision is not one that benefits their girls.
“Since they use the same blade, it spreads HIV and AIDs,” says Guzman. “These are things they don’t even know— simple sanitation.”
Seeds of Change hopes to accomplish their mission of empowering through education with the construction of an education center for the Maasai. There is just one man that they need to get through in order to have permission to build this center: the leader of the tribe.
Due to a drought that had ravaged their land from 2004 to 2009, the tribe leader has one request for the Seeds of Change Initiative.
“We created a pact with the tribe leader,” says Guzman. “If we bring in water wells, he will give us the land to build this school.”
If the group is able to accomplish this for the Maasai, only then will they be willing to listen to the group’s message of empowering through education. Overall, the construction of the education center will add up to $10,000, of which they have already raised over $2,000.
Without a school, it’s very unlikely anyone from the tribe will receive an education because they are so cut off from civilization. Loitokitok is approximately 158 miles away from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.
The Seeds of Change Initiative isn’t trying to change the culture of these people, but instead trying to get the civilization on its own feet. This is something they hope to accomplish through the power of education and compassion, which is something Guzman feels society is greatly lacking in.
“No one cares,” said Guzman. “I’ll post a picture online of a child asking to sponsor them and the picture will get, at best, four likes. Then, I post a picture of my dog, and she gets a hundred likes!”