Home Institution

Harvard University

Publication Date

Fall 2009

Program Name

Tanzania: Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology


In this study I spent 13 days between November 6-18, 2009 in the village of Engare Sero. My sample frame is the Maasai community of Engare Sero, specifically girls and women over the age of around six. I went from boma to boma, organizing informal “focal groups” with a total of approximately 100 women and girls. I spoke to them about the cultural rules governing sexual practice, how their sexual practices changed over the course of their lives, how sexual practices have changed over time, what changes they hope for or expect for their daughters and the roots of those changes. I analyzed my data using descriptive analysis, anthropological and gender theories. Women described Christianity, development and western education as the primary sources of changes in sexual practice. Christianity has introduced both the value of monogamy and virginity into the community which sharply contrast with historical Maasai sexual practices. Development has encouraged money to be more highly valued, possibly affecting the way in which girls and women choose their lovers. Western education has brought with it certain western ideals including individuality and self-determination which has influenced many women to entrust their daughters with decisions about their own lives. The women I spoke to exhibited uncertainty about the affects that changing sexual practices would have on the lives of their daughters and granddaughters and on their community at large. They also expressed the hope that these changes will enable their daughters to choose lives which will bring them happiness.


Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


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