Mary Supeet: A beacon of hope for Maasai girls in Kenya
By Lilian Kaivilu
When Mary Tomoina Supeet could no longer withstand the long distance from home to school in Kajiado County, her father transferred her from Esilanke Primary School to AIC girls Boarding School. He understood all too well the challenges a young Supeet would face along the 10-kilometre journey that she covered every morning.
“I wanted a different life from that of most of my agemates. When my friend underwent the cut, older women teased me, asking when I would follow suit. But I wanted to be a role model in my generation,” says Supeet. Having seen her peers drop out of school to get married, Supeet had to stay resilient in order to achieve her dream. She wanted to bring change. Many obstacles, however, stood in the way of her dreams.
Living in a region with a high prevalence of female genital mutilation, Supeet was expected to undergo the cut together with her peers. “But my father protected me from this cultural practice. Older women in the village pestered me to undergo the cut else I would not find a man to marry me,” she remembers.
With a role model and support in her father, Supeet, 23, vowed to bring a change to hundreds of girls who are at the risk of female genital mutilation in her community. The Kenya Institute of Mass Communication Journalism graduate started Strong Maasai Ladies Association (SMALA) in 2015, a community based organization that seeks to fight teenage pregnancies by instilling confidence in school going girls in Kajiado County.
Currently, the organization reaches out to Maasai girls who have completed their secondary education from Iloodokilani Ward in Kajiado West Constituency. “I saw the cries of many parents who, after working so hard to get their girls to school, the young ones dropped out due to teenage pregnancies. The tears of these parents burdened my heart.” This is what persuaded Supeet to start outreaches to the young girls with the aim of encouraging them to complete school and excel.
Through conferences, school outreaches and church rallies, SMALA has so far reached over 500 young girls in the county. Besides mentorship programmes, the organization also supplies sanitary towels and offers education bursaries to the girls through the support of well wishers. In order to sustain these activities, the members contribute Sh200 ($1) every month.
Supeet points out that the scholarship of Faith Katita, one of the beneficiries sof SMALA programmes who is now a student at St Paul’s University in Kenya, is a key milestone for the organization. She believes that with partnerships from well wishers, she will make Kajiado a better place for girls.