This summer a group of young Maasai men from Il Polei, a remote village in Kenya, are bringing their revolutionary combination of cricket and tackling female genital mutilation (FGM) to the UK. They are called the Maasai Cricket Warriors and they combine their passion for the game of cricket with inspiring work to preserve their unique Maasai culture and challenge some of the harmful practices which threaten the future of the Maasai.
The team was founded after being introduced to cricket by South African wildlife researcher Aliya Bauer who was working in Laikipia, near Mount Kenya. Cricket fan Aliya started teaching cricket to the local youth and they very quickly took to the game, formed a team and Aliya became their first coach. With support from Aliya and sports development charity Cricket Without Boundaries, the team developed their skills and started to gain local and then international recognition. They became role models in their community and decided to use their status to challenge harmful practices such as FGM and early forced marriages. They also campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS and to preserve the local environment and wildlife. The history and traditions of the Maasai are at the heart of the team’s mission and this is melded with a positive vision for the future and an end to social injustice within the Maasai community. Their incredible story is capture in the documentary film WARRIORS.
Over the last few years the team have been leaders in the effort to end FGM in their community. They have been changing the lives of girls from their community for over 10 years. Girls like Nancy, who was expected to undergo FGM when she was 10 years old. Her older brothers Daniel and Benjamen were part of the Warriors team and persuaded their parents that FGM was too dangerous and Nancy should not be cut and married. The brothers protected their sister and she went on to continue her education with hopes to become a teacher or nurse. Nancy was the first girl not to have FGM in her family but with her the harmful cycle was broken and she now has cousins and friends who also did not undergo FGM.
Similarly, team captain Sonyanga Ole Ngais and his brother Christopher have ensured that the girls in their family no longer undergo FGM. Sonyanga has also encouraged the girls and women to form their own cricket team, the Maasai Cricket Ladies, and these young women are just as passionate about their cricket as their brothers. The sound of ball on bat has become part of the backdrop to life in Il Polei and the cricket ground which was laid out from community land for the Warriors has become an important social centre.
Now, in partnership with anti-FGM activist Valentine Nkoyo, the Mojatu Foundation and Nottingham Trent University, the Warriors will be in the UK from 16th August to 1st September for a special tour and will be taking part in a several cricket games as well as social and campaign events.
Valentine lives in Nottingham and has been a driving force behind much of the work against FGM in the City and across the wider community. She also maintains close links to her Maasai community in Kenya and since learning about the Warriors it has been a dream for her to bring them to Nottingham and the UK, to work together in their shared aims to end FGM. That dream is now being fulfilled and we are all invited to take part. The Magool team supports the Warriors campaign and we will attending some tour events. We hope to see you there and together we can end FGM.
Story image copyright warriorsfilm.co.uk