Maasai women defy cultural odds, join rangers in conservation

Women rangers at Segera Conservancy in Laikipia North. The 12 rangers who underwent a six-month training in different wildlife reserves will be the first professional female rangers team in Kenya and East Africa. [Jacinta Mutura, Standard]

Traditionally, Maasai women don’t hold professional jobs in the wildlife sector.

But a group of women from the community in Laikipia County defied all odds to train as rangers.

Yesterday, 12 women from the pastoral community graduated as wildlife rangers at Segera Conservancy after six months of extensive training in different wildlife reserves. 

The team will be the first only-female rangers in the male-dominated career in Kenya and East Africa.

Women and men from Maasai, Samburu and Turkana gathered to witness and celebrate success of the former housewives. 

“I grew up knowing Maasai women should only graze and take care of children at home. My parents refused to educate me since I could not help them,” said Ann Momina.

Momina was almost disowned by her father after she threatened to report him for taking her sisters for circumcision.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the only-women team was the first in the country and East Africa. 

“It’s clear that even women can protect wildlife just as men. They can handle guns in the forest and they just need support and opportunity,” he said. 

Mr Balala said the special training for women would be introduced at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

The training involved traversing through valleys, plains and wildlife conservancies with experienced hands taking the women through the tactics in conservation and protecting the wildlife.

“It was very tough and depressing but we soldiered on because of our determination. We could carry heavy bags containing the stuff we were using for the training. There were dangerous animals like snakes, buffaloes, rhinos, jumbos but we preserved,” said Elizabeth Natapar.

Segera Ranch and Zeitz Foundation Programme Manager Benaiah Odhiambo said the ranch intends to train yearly women from the neighbouring community as a way of empowering them and promoting education for girls education.