Maasai Women: Breaking Out of the Boma

Throughout the past century, Maasai men have been the sole financial providers for their families. However, with increasing droughts and dwindling land access due to conservation, men are becoming unable to provide for their multiple wives and families.

Many women, often forbidden from working and yet unable to watch their families suffer, have forgone societal norms and started businesses—selling small goods like petroleum jelly or snuff tobacco from their homes or nearby markets. Although usually making less than $5 USD a week, these women risk abuse and community backlash.

With the continued and steady success of these businesswomen, along with the help from various NGO’s, the number of Maasai women doing business is increasing. In the past few years, NGOs and veteran Maasai businesswomen have created women’s collectives that provide micro-loans, access to bank accounts, support during emergencies, and business strategy advice. With these collectives, opinions towards women leaving their boma (or homestead) and earning an income are changing. Their success is redefining Maasai notions of womanhood.

This project follows several women in Oltukai Village, Tanzania, as they learn from each other, struggle to grow (or start) their businesses, and challenge their village’s conception of women.

A Changing World? Pulitzer Center Photography Exhibition

Pulitzer Center student fellows travel the world to report on issues that affect us all—telling stories that might otherwise go untold. This exhibit features selected work by student fellows, shot on location in countries now undergoing rapid transformation, from the roads in Bangkok to a Maasai village in Tanzania.

Female Power in a Maasai Village

By struggling to feed her family, Sipapei Lekisamba and her fellow Maasai women are disrupting the very foundations of their patriarchal society and earning a right to financial independence.

Maasai Women "Carry Each Other"

Women in Tanzania's Oltukai Village are teaching each other how to "wake up" to their own potential—reaching for financial independence in a typically patriarchal society.