Why Maasai men in Narok embraced family planning

They resisted when their wives took it up but changed minds after training

In Summary

• Traditional society has warmed up to the idea due to rising cost of living

• Previously, children were considered as wealth but now have to be limited


The cycle of Maasai women in Narok falling pregnant every year and straining resources has been broken after their men embraced modern family planning. 

The Anglican Development Service initiated programmes to educate residents living around the Maasai Mara National Reserve on family planning topics.

Ben Ole Kaaria, a beneficiary in Sekenani, said the methods have brought more gain than harm to his family.

“The rising cost of living has made life very difficult. Maintaining many children as it was the case before is very hard now,” he said.

John Muli, a Community Based Distributor, said tourists flock to Masai Mara to see not just the animals but also the Maasais, whom they cherish for maintaining their traditions.

Howver, the traditional way of family planning they have been using since time immemorial was not effective and enhanced immorality.

The pregnant mother would separate with the husband during the pregnancy period and reunite after breastfeeding the young child.

Immediately after they reunited, the woman would likely fall pregnant in the same year, and the cycle continued.

Maa men are regarded as the heads of every family, hence they have a vital role to play in the decisions of their wives' uptake of family planning.

That is why the NGO targeted them.

Ole Kaaria said before, the land was communal and people moved in the vast land grazing their livestock.

However, things have changed after land demarcation as it has limited the movement of livestock.

“Everybody is living in his or her personal land. The more children you have, the less the land,” Ole Kaaria said.

“This is why we appreciate topics on family planning that will help us control the number of children in our families.”

He said his wife has been using pills since the trainings began and she has not experienced any side-effects.

“Family planning is good. It has helped me to manage my family. I advise all men to encourage their women to go for family planning,” Ole Kaaria said.

Another resident, Micah Ole Kiu, said the topics on family planning had enlightened the community on how to plan for a number of children that they could easily manage.

“Following the teachings that we have got, we now advise our wives to use family planning methods so that we can control the number of children in our families,” he said.

Ole Kiu also advised families that have not embraced the concept of family planning to come on board.

Fellow resident Brian Mpoe said the ADS programme had changed their mindsets.

“In the old days, children were wealth to the families. The more children a man had, the wealthier he would be considered,” he said.

The children would not go to school but instead spent their youthful days grazing their father’s livestock at the expense of education.

However, things have changed in the modern days as the government has put structures in place to ensure every child goes to school.

“Things are fast changing. In modern times, many children will translate to digging deeper into your pockets to provide for their basic needs and education,” Mpoe said.

"This is why we have to limit the number of children we have."

County director of health Dr Francis Kiio said it was challenging to train the men at first as they were completely opposed to the modern ways of family planning.

“We first educated the women but realised that the men were opposed to family planning,” he said.

"This brought divisions in the families as the men did not understand why their women were not getting pregnant. However, after the training, the men have embraced the concept."

He said the most preferred method of family planning in the society was pills and injections, while most families opposed using condoms.

“The family planning methods are given free of charge to the couples,” Muli said.

"Most women in the village do not prefer using condoms, unlike the women in the marketplaces."

He urged ADS to continue funding the programme to reach more people in the area.

Family planning comes with various benefits, among them aiding in population planning and control, leading to effective distribution of natural resources and creating more jobs for the population.

Family planning also ultimately helps in planning for a sufficient number of schools and healthcare services, including sanitation facilities and environmental benefits.

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