Maa (Maasai)

Maa Lesson #4: Reproductive Health and Menstruation

WELCOME to lesson #4 of this beginner-level Maa part. In this section, we are going to do something a little different. We are going to pretend like we are researchers traveling to Tanzania to learn from Maasai people (women in particular) about their reproductive health. In this particular lesson we are most interested in learning about menstruation. Before we are able to embark on our adventure to Tanzania, we have to get some vocabulary down as well as introductions and other key phrases that will allow us to ask the important questions we seek answers to.


Let’s get started!


Menstruation Vocabulary:

Menstruation = Ingolongi/Irkilani 

Blood = Osarge

Water = Engare

Why? = Kanyoo?

What is that? = Kanyoo anda?

How? = Kaigil

Non-governmental Organization (NGO) = NGO

clothing/ cloth/ products for absorbing flow = shuka

*NOTE: Also recall lesson #3 for the vocabulary on parts of the body.


Introducing Yourself:

Hi my name is [INSERT NAME]. = Aaji ang’arna [INSERT NAME].

I am a student in America. = Nara angara ee shule ta marakani.

I study women’s health. = Aa sita utafiti naiperita afiya oongitwaak.

I ask for your cooperation on this research. = Owmonu eretoto ino.

What you tell me will stay between us. = Ore ndoki pookin nikiliki na kamiki.

What is your name? = Kakijar ang’arna?



Key Phrases and Questions:

Why do you menstruate? = Kaanyoo  enduata oongoloni/ endorotooirkilani?

How often do you menstruate? = Kaigil ada idol elkilani?

How has menstruation changed over time? = Kanyoo en’gibele kanyata enduata oongolongi?

What do you do when you menstruate? = Kanyoo iyasiasa enidol ingolongi?

What do you wear to protect yourself? = Kainyo iinjopu enidol irkilani?


Cultural and Historical Context: 

Now that we have begun learning these key words and phrases for our research project on menstruation, let’s spend a brief moment discussion why a researcher might be interested in learning more about menstruation among Maasai people and what some of the cultural implications might be. Remember colonialism? Yeah, it was not a great time for Maasai people. From 1880 – 1919 Tanzania (then Tanganyika) was occupied by the Germans and the from 1919 to 1961 the British stole the land, space, resources, and ideas from the people. After independence, in 1964, a new Tanzanian, socialist regime came into power. President Julius Nyerere was the first leader of the nation after colonialism. From the 1960s-2000s, there was a boom in “development work” (that had been introduced during colonial times as well). With this boom came neoliberal/ capitalistic ideals of progress, modernity, competition, profit-maximization, self-advancement and more. Maasai people were “marked” as “backwards”, “traditional” people who did not want to “get up with the times.” They were marginalized on the basis of ethnicity, language, class, livelihood (i.e., pastoralism), clothing/ aesthetics, and more.

Without going into a looooong and involved history lesson, let’s suffice it to say that Maasai people have been marginalized for decades in almost every facet of their lives. This marginalization (obviously) influences well-being and things like reproductive health. Maasai women have also been caring for the menstruation for centuries — long before menstruation (or menstrual hygiene management) was ever “problematized” by development organizations or other neoliberal(ly) minded communities around the world. Moreover, Maasai women have engaged a precolonial form of social organizing that happens when (and only when) their reproductive capacities feel threatened — SO COOL! Why not learn from women what they have been doing for their menstrual care. Why not learn if they think their menstruation is a problem or not. Why not inquire about how systems of power, from the macro down to the micro, influence women’s menstrual needs and practices! And, maybe, just maybe, we can learn more productive ways to create systemic change rather than band-aid (development) approaches.


Okay, WOHOO! Let’s keep learning, this is FUN!


H5P Activity #1 – Maa Lesson #4: Reproductive Health and Menstruation

Now that we have learned new words, phrases, and cultural/ historical context, let’s PRACTICE! First, we will do some flashcards, and second we will do a drag and drop activity!



H5P Activity #2 – Maa Lesson #4: Reproductive Health and Menstruation




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