Namayana Maasai Women's Group: A Story of Empowerment and Resilience

April 19, 2023
Empowering Maasai Women in Ruaha National Park

UNDP Resident Representative, Christine Musisi, receiving the support requests of the Namayana Maasai Women's group with their chairperson in Tungamalenga village.

UNDP Tanzania
Discover the inspiring story of Namayana, a group of Maasai women who have joined forces to create a better future for themselves and their families. From humble beginnings selling cultural handcrafts by the roadside, this group has experienced tremendous growth thanks to the support of UNDP, GEF and TANAPA.

"Our group is called Namayana - meaning blessed. We decided to call it that way because it has blessed our lives in so many ways," says Khadija, one of the members of the Namayana Maasai Women's Group. "From where we started to where we are now, I can't help but say we are blessed," she adds.

This is the story of a group of about 30 Maasai women who joined hands and created a group that sells Maasai cultural handcrafts, including beaded necklaces, earrings, rings, anklets, and more. The group is located at Malinzaga village along the road to Ruaha National Park in Iringa region and was established in 2009. Initially, the women displayed their goods by the roadside and had to endure dust, rain, and the scorching sun, not to mention the risk of being involved in an accident. Their main clients were tourists who visited the Ruaha National Park.

In 2017, UNDP through its project – Strengthening the Protected Areas Networking in Southern Tanzania (SPANEST) which was supported by Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) intervened and helped the Namayana Maasai Women’s Group. 

The SPANEST project aimed at strengthening the Protected Areas Network in Southern Tanzania with TANAPA as an Implementing partner. The support that these women received, among other things, was a well-constructed shed resembling the Maasai Boma with all necessary amenities, including water, toilets, and shelves for displaying their products.

"We were so happy when this boma was handed over to us". We were empowered and able to buy goats, textbooks, shoes, clothes and pay school fees for our children," says Neema, one of the members. She further adds, "I have also been able to buy sugar, flour, salt and other household items."

Empowering Maasai Women in Ruaha National Park

The Namayana Maasai Women's group business centre, known as the Boma, was constructed with the support of UNDP/GEF and serves as a hub for their cultural handcrafts.

UNDP Tanzania

Life during COVID19

Like the rest of the world, COVID-19 did not spare the Namayana group and has struggled to stay afloat. Sales went down as the world was under lockdown, and since their main customers were tourists, it hit them hard. For almost two years, the group was not able to conduct any business, hence the Boma started to deteriorate, water and other infrastructure were destroyed, and the business center went dormant.


The present

Earlier this month, Christine Musisi, the UNDP Resident Representative, accompanied by the environment pillar team and Ruaha National Park officials, visited the Namayana women to assess the situation and establish how to help. The group has requested the renovation of the Boma, repairing the water and other accessories, as well as receiving capacity building on entrepreneurship training to polish their business skills.

Ms. Musisi was thrilled to meet these women who are now more empowered and capable of supporting their children's education; because of their increased household income, their spouses now respect them more.

"In most places of the world, women work hard, carry heavy loads, and take care of the families. I believe in what you do because of your hard work; you were able to take care of your families, pay school fees, and buy uniforms for your children. I understand that COVID-19 has taken you a step back, but do not despair. You must stay strong and move forward. UNDP is happy to continue supporting Namayana, and for this, we will help you with repairing the Boma and the infrastructure. We will also explore the possibility of ensuring that you receive entrepreneurship training so that you stay sustainable even if another pandemic strikes," adds Ms. Musisi.


Namayana Maasai Women’s group chairperson further requested UNDP to assist them with acquiring land certificate where their Boma is located as it is they don’t own the land, to boost their business they also requested to be connected to electricity to enable them to sell soft drink and financial support to grow their capital.