By Ali Allport, Safari Collection Conservation and Community Manager
It is not always easy to convince people to change, even if change is in their very best interest. Stories, however, are a wonderful way to pass on important health messages to people who desperately need information which may save their lives.
S.A.F.E Kenya is a Kenyan NGO and UK charity that uses street theatre, song and film to educate, inspire and deliver social change on a range of issues, including HIV/AIDS prevention, female circumcision (FGC) and gender based violence. S.A.F.E now has a team, S.A.F.E Maa, who specifically addresses these issues which are predominant in the Maasai/Samburu culture in the Maa Language.
In November 2013, SAFE Maa visited Westgate at the invitation of Sasaab Lodge to partner with the Team Talk project. The Samburu are a polygamous society and the men often have to travel to find work, making
them vulnerable to contracting HIV. Understanding HIV and how it is contracted and transmitted will help this community to protect themselves in the future.
Many of the men we talked to believed HIV to be a disease that only westerners could catch. One person even said he thought that it was caused through the use of condoms. The HIV message S.A.F.E delivers also encourages men and women to respect each other and their relationships. Almost 100% of girls are currently circumcised in Westgate, despite the practice being illegal in Kenya. FGC is entrenched in the Samburu culture and is the traditional right of passage for a girl into womanhood.
S.A.F.E Kenya is helping to open the eyes of the community to the idea of change and the design of an alternative right of passage that can take a girl into womanhood safely.
During that initial visit the community really embraced the messages that SAFE Maa were singing and acting about and it was decided that we would try and find a way to start a SAFE Samburu.
The Westgate Umbrella Youth Group, an established group of ten youths who are considered to be role models within the community, were selected to be part of this project. It was felt that the group would be ideal to work with the Safe Maa team towards the first step of developing their own Safe Samburu.