Luci lights were brought to the Maasai in Tsavo and Amboseli, Kenya, by the NGO New Course.
Luci light is basically a solar light and the goal of the NGO was pretty simple; empower women as business leaders who sell this solar light and therefore boost the local economy.
The goal may have been as simplistic and modest, but the results from the program have surpassed the goal in a rather impressive way. Impressive because of its unexpectedness.
E3Merge was the name of the program that New Course created in conjunction with Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT). They set up the women in the community as Luci resellers.
This essentially gave the women the job of selling Luci in a way that makes them affordable for the community, after which they could then re-invest the money earned back into local businesses, boosting the economy.
A 350 strong force of Maasai women took part in the program. They formed women’s empowerment groups, each with a president, secretary, and treasurer to manage the new business.
Average family savings were driven up, along with the quality of education and added health and environmental benefits that came from using solar lights and ditching kerosene.
Now the unexpected; as the women met to discuss how to resell their solar lights, they also discussed other community concerns and one, in particular, kept coming up; Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
FGM is one come of age tradition that has been determined to have no health benefits but rather presents a host of harmful aftereffects.
The United Nation has even stamped it as a human rights violation. In these business groups, the women used the opportunity to better inform themselves and their communities of alternatives to FGM.
They took a leaf from the book of neighbors, some of whom had replaced FGM with simpler and safer solutions that still respect cultural heritage.
The coming of age celebrations in these places now consists of singing, dancing, and blessings by the village elders, who pour a mix of milk and honey over the girls. Mothers give their daughters beaded necklaces and former cutters have become sex educators.
The solar light, Luci, helped to start a much-needed conversation about FGM for the Maasai living in Tsavo and Amboseli