When I first came to the states about 20 years ago, there were very few Maa people in the country. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that we began to see an increase in numbers and the idea of community organizing coming into play in the mid 2000’s with the formation of the Association of Maasai Abroad (AMAA). AMAA ran fairly successfully for a number years but was unfortunately unable to attract and keep members.
In mid 2013, I began reaching out to members of the Maa community about community building and development strategies. There was a lot of initial interest especially on the need to build awareness of ourselves as a people who can individually and collectively set and achieve goals. There was a big emphasis on inclusion in decision making and a need to break away from the status quo. After many meetings, an interim board was created and a plan/agenda in the form of by-laws was put on pen and paper. The Maa Diaspora Network was thus founded – representing all Maa people from Kenya and Tanzania, including but not limited to the Maasai, Samburu & Il-Chamus.
As I hand over leadership to very capable hands, I would like to share the following observations that I believe are worth noting and might be useful in strengthening this community organization;
This is undoubtably the number one barrier to Maa people working together effectively. Am inclined to believe that pride is embedded in our DNA and that, combined with self doubt distorts many an image, creating a false aura of self importance. People start to see themselves as the center of the universe and naturally put their own agenda and status above everyone else in the group. This is disastrous especially where the individual in question is in the leadership team. An overactive ego can be tamed by practicing humility; it’s not about you but about the people you serve and their needs. I would urge members to elect leaders that have both will and humility. Leaders who will put the goals of the organization before their own. Leaders who recognize that they are in that position to serve and not to be served.
Committing to the organization means showing up, following through and sticking with it. The more people commit, the greater the momentum generated to make the organization successful. We complain endlessly about poor leadership, lack of unity and organization failures yet what I have observed is few people step up, even fewer follow through and the majority will watch from the sidelines. Commitment is what gives an organization strength. Recognize that there is a lot to be gained from involvement and when you are asked to commit, you are being offered an opportunity!
- Cultural Limitations
I can’t count how many times I heard ‘..am available in whatever capacity the community asks/needs me’ or ‘let’s give this position to so and so’ etc. Although these are very egotistical statements, they have more to do with cultural limitations that we impose on ourselves. We set aside our cultural beliefs everyday for many reasons. So why do we not do the same for the betterment of our community? With leadership skills, anyone can be a leader but only those that don’t limit themselves will have that opportunity. Leaders are not born, they are created!
While on this subject, my Maa sisters in the Diaspora PLEASE STAND UP! It’s 2014 and the era of being seen and not heard is long gone. Our views are just as equally important and should be heard. When we don’t voice our opinions, we risk being sidelined. We should also not be afraid or ashamed to do so in mixed company. Most important, let’s not get pushed into creating gender based groupings as this only sprout unnecessary divides amongst the community. Let’s show up and be the educated great leaders that we know we can be!
In conclusion, I hope the current team will continue to feel supported and valued and that members are included, empowered and supported. Use your shared values and your belief in the organizations mission/vision to make much needed strides. Borrow a leaf from other Kenyan communities abroad like the Abagusii and the Kalenjin, who are tremendously improving themselves through community building. Best wishes Olosho le Maa!