"Just because a practice is a tradition does not mean it should remain unchanged. We must rise and demand change for our society to progress."
– Felisters Naserian
Felisters is a high school teacher from Oloosagararam, a Maasai village located in the neighboring town of Kilgoris in Narok County. In addition to her teaching career, Felisters is also a founding member of Enkare Nasila Youth Organization (ENYO), a community-based organization created last year to champion the well-being of girls in our corner of southwestern Kenya.
Felisters was moved to help form the organization after realizing how many school-age girls were resorting to survival sex in exchange for basic necessities they could not afford, including underwear and menstrual hygiene supplies. Because contraception is largely unavailable in our region and sexual and reproductive health knowledge is limited, this practice frequently leads to unintended pregnancies for these already very vulnerable girls. In fact, the Kenyan Ministry of Health recently released data showing that Narok County, where ENYO and Kakenya’s Dream both operate, contributed to 56% of all teenage pregnancies in the country last year.
It was truly infuriating to Felisters to see how many girls were taken advantage of and forced to abandon their future plans after becoming pregnant. So ENYO stepped in to provide necessities that thousands of girls across the county lack, explaining, “once you provide a girl with essential items like sanitary pads, panties, and other personal effects, you protect her from vulnerabilities.”
In addition to providing these essential resources for girls, ENYO also seeks to address forms of sexual and gender-based violence including child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), as well as teenage pregnancy, which are all interrelated issues that are tragically prevalent in the Maasai community. Felisters says she envisions a Maa community in which girls are empowered and liberated from harmful practices like FGM and child marriage. She explains, “just because a practice is a tradition does not mean it should remain unchanged. We must rise and demand change for our society to progress.”
To this end, ENYO also conducts mentorship programs in various schools across Kilgoris in an effort to nurture and empower girls to grow into successful professionals. Felisters wisely comments, “we need to encourage girls to rise above the shackles of harmful cultural practices.”