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Meet Edward Ngobei, a Maasai elder who challenged his community’s attitude about child rights

Lasting change often comes through listening. Sometimes it takes a village elder listening to his grown son to spark the fires of change.

During a Safe Initiative parent training in Tanzania, Maasai elder Edward Ngobei (below) shared a story that sparked an insight for him about child rights.

Ngobei’s son was responsible for a herd of cattle that belonged to the family. One morning he found out that one of the cows was missing. He started looking for it, but soon inquired with his father. His father simply said, “I decided to sell the cow.”

To Ngobei, it was a simple transaction. One he had likely done many times before without a second thought. But his son was offended that he wasn’t consulted, especially after the care and concern he had given to the herd.

“My son was very concerned that the very cow he had been looking after could be disposed of without his knowledge. I disregarded his concern, because I didn’t think about a child’s right to be involved in decisions that affect them.”

Ngobei was one of 25 participants who attended this parents training, which is part of the Safe Initiative program that is supported by Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry. Topics such as life skills, principles of effective parenting, growth mindset, positive approaches to discipline, and conflict transformation were addressed.

“It is through this seminar that I have learned to challenge some of our cultural practices that undermine development of children’s welfare.” Ngobei urged his fellow participants to critically examine some of their assumptions and practices, and decide whether or not they align with the needs of younger generations.

Salome Lally is a program coordinator at Mwangaza, an LPGM partner

The Safe Initiative

In Tanzania

  • 73% of girls finish 7th Grade
  • 30% of girls finish 8th Grade
  • 6% of girls finish 11th Grade
  • More than ⅓ of girls are married by 18.

The Safe Initiative focuses primarily on Maasai girls, where forced teenage marriage is common. Secondary school is not mandatory, so after 7th grade parents often give their daughters to husbands for a dowry.

LPGM works with three partners to address these needs: Kipok Safe House, Mwangaza Education for Partnership, and Every Child Counts.

The Kipok Safe House and Every Child Counts provide:

  • A place for girls to seek help and safely continue their education.
  • Emotional and educational support so they can stay in school.

Mwangaza provides training and support for both teachers and students:

  • School training on conflict transformation, nonviolent communication, child protection policies, effective leadership, and alternative discipline.
  • Parent training
  • Binti-Mama (Mother-Daughter) training
  • Student-led Peace Club: pillars of good character and conflict transformation.
  • Life Skills: Gender-based violence, setting goals and coping skills.

Author Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry

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