The Maa Trust Partnership

Karen Blixen Camp Trust has formed a partnership with the local non-profit trust The Maa Trust on the project: The Mara Rianta alternative rites of passage to end female genital mutilation.

In 2023, 140 girls 12-16 years from the Mara Rianta and its neighboring communities participated in an alternative rites of passage, sparing them from the female genital mutilation that is still widely practiced in the Maasai community, in spite of that it is illegal in Kenya. A cultural practice with great consequences for the girls, leading to child marriage, child pregnancy and school drop-outs, not to mention the physical consequences this mutilation has on the girls lives.

To prevent this harmful cultural practice, the whole community of Mara Rianta was involved in an alternative rite of passage from April to August 2023.

The project was facilitated and run by the local community based non-profit organisation The Maa Trust. Karen Blixen Camp Trust is a proud donor to this important project together with Crossing Borders Austria, Asilia and Basecamp Explorer Foundation Kenya.


Click on the image belov and watch a short film from the project.


Female genital mutilation is still a big problem in the Maasai Mara

At present, 78% of 9-14 year-old Maasai girls are still undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) and in some villages in the Maasai Mara, this exceeds 90% of girls. FGM inevitably leads to child marriage and child pregnancy. Narok County is ranked the worst in Kenya for child marriage and child pregnancy, with 41% of girls having their first child before the age of 19, some as young as 11-12 years old.


FGM is now illegal in Kenya, but this has resulted in girls being cut at a younger age so as to avoid suspicion from authorities. In the Maasai Mara, girls as young as 9 are undergoing FGM which then makes them eligible for marriage. The Maa Trust has intervened in several instances when girls as young as 10 years old, who have already undergone FGM, are being prepared for imminent marriage.

These three issues: FGM, child marriage and child pregnancy are the leading causes of girls dropping out of school in the Maasai Mara.


Alternative Rite of Passage to prevent mutilation

Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) is a program introduced in the 1990’s in different communities that still practice female initiation rites of passage to adulthood as a viable alternative to the controversial female circumcision (FC). ARP simulates the traditional rituals as closely as possible without the physical operation of the genitals.



There are four stages to the ARP project:

  1. Six months community mobilization
  2. 10-day residential mentorship training for initiates
  3. ARP ceremony and celebration
  4. Follow up with graduates



Involvement of the community is important

The community mobilization in preparation for the CLARP residential camp and celebration involves engaging with gatekeeping administrative and community leaders, using Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to identify initiates, and meetings with parents / guardians of the selected 100 girls. During the parents / guardians meetings, the following topics are discussed:

  • Children rights and laws regarding child rights and protection.
  • Role of ARP in FGM prevention
  • Commitment of families not to circumcise daughters
  • Positive parenting
  • How girls should carry themselves in the new found status of adulthood.
  • Development of community support structures for ongoing psychosocial support
  • Everyone’s role in ending FGM & other forms of gender-based violence
  • Referral systems and community referral points mapping.

As ending FGM is a responsibility of every community member, awareness training are also done to other children besides the 140 girls, boys, youth, the FGM cutters, grandmothers. This particular group of community members has a direct influence on FGM, e.g. grandmothers are the custodians of culture and they play a big role on passing down the culture to the next generation. Men and boys influence the stigma associated with FGM. Most girls fear being unmarriageable if they do not go through the cut. Having men who support/marry uncircumcised girls will reduce the fear among the girls.



Educational camp for the 100 girls

The 10-day intensive, fun and engaging training camp for the initiates was held at Mara Rianta Primary School. During the residential camp, the following issues were covered to prepare the girls for their transition to womanhood:


  1. FGM and its effects
  2. Alternative rites of passage (ARP)
  3. Child Rights
  4. Understanding the Female anatomy
  5. Menstrual hygiene management
  6. Role play – outcomes of early sex
  7. Life skills
  8. Peer Counselling and coping with peer pressure
  9. Mentorship and role models
  10. Being a Maasai women – beadwork and cooking activities
  11. Tenkaraki ing’uesi – game drives to explore the importance of wildlife and conservation

During the course of the week, the girls also received one-on-one counselling by child psychologists from Gertrudes Children’s Hospital to undertake HEEADSS assessment which will identify any points of concern in the child’s life. Any issues identified has been followed up on after the graduation.



A large celebration

At the end of the one-week camp, there was a large community celebration, with an estimated attendance of 1,000 people to celebrate the transition of the 140 girls from childhood to adulthood. The girls obtained all the information and privileges associated with traditional coming of age ceremonies, which include the exchange of gifts, eating good food, dancing and a public declaration for community recognition. Upon graduation, the initiates were presented with custom branded kitenge cloths and a certificate. During the ceremony, community elders and families were invited forwards to make a pledge not to circumcise any more girls within their families.



Mentoring and support

Following the CLARP, each graduate will be followed up with on two occasions over the course of the next year to provide additional mentoring and support, and to assess the impact of the CLARP on her life. Feedback sessions will also be held with community gatekeepers and parents/guardians to listen to their comments and recommendations for how to improve this project in subsequent years.

Graduates of the program and their parents will form be part of an ambassador group that advocates against FGM in their region. They will also be mentors for other new cohorts/graduates.