Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been gaining the attention of world leaders and the media recently. But for some time, a group of young Maasai cricketing warriors men have been fighting to end the need for this brutal practice.
FGM was already the subject of discussion between team captain Sonyanga Ole Ngais and his friends when South African Aliya Bauer, who was conducting research in the area, brought over some equipment from South Africa and began teaching the locals to play, leading to the formation of the Warriors team in 2009.
The novelty of the brightly dressed Maasai taking up the game soon attracted media attention, and the team was invited to Cape Town for the Last Man Stands championship in 2012, before heading to London the following year along with a film crew. The team have used their increasing profile to talk about ending FGM for good.
“Female genital mutilation is part of our culture and practice and it marks the transition from childhood to adulthood, of women from girls. We now realise FGM is one of the practices we should not have in our society. It’s not helping us but affecting our girls and mothers and wives.” – Sonyanga Ole Ngais, Warriors’ Captain
The film, Warriors, follows Ngais’ Maasai Cricket Warriors team as they train for the 2013 Last Man Stands world championships in the UK. The event offers a dream prize for cricket fans as it offers the opportunity to play at Lord’s cricket ground in London.
During the film, we hear the team discussing FGM and the lack of women’s rights back home. Their views are in stark contrast to those expressed by Maasai elders.
While speaking to The Guardian newspaper this week to promote the film, Ngais spoke about his personal experience of FGM, “It started a long time ago when we were young and our sisters were being married off and not completing school.”
“When I was young I remember very well my last sister to undergo the cut (FGM), and she was married off. I really liked her and was really sad and cried a lot when she was married off. She was like my mother, taking care of me … when she was married I realised I was not going to have that company. I was not going to see her.” – Sonyanga Ole Ngais, Warriors’ Captain
The pain he felt losing his sister to marriage never left him and as Ngais grew older, he came to understand more about what girls went through. As his knowledge increased, he began to question the importance of FGM in the Maasai culture, and started sharing his views with his friends about it and determined that his younger sister, Eunice, would not be cut.
The eye that leaves the village sees further (Maasai Saying)
By travelling, the young cricketers had, in the eyes of their elders, earned the right to a hearing in which they were asked if they would want to marry women who had not undergone FGM. They replied by promising to only marry women who had not been cut.
Unfortunately, Ngais and the Warriors didn’t get the chance to play in the finals at Lord’s, and instead had to settle instead for practice sessions on its nursery ground.
But he has achieved another, more important victory. By enlisting his two older brothers in the fight against FGM, and petitioning his parents, he has managed to ensure his sister Eunice and his nieces have not been cut.
Now, Eunice is studying at secondary school and women’s cricket team, the Maasai Cricket Ladies is growing in popularity in the area.
Now, Ngais is studying for a degree in communications and electronic media at Daystar University in Nairobi, hoping to have a career in the film industry when he graduates.
He has set up another cricket team at university and returns home regularly to practice with the Warriors, and still dreams of one day playing on the hallowed turf of Lord’s.
Warriors is released in cinemas from tomorrow (13 November).