Gender Related Social Groups

The Maasai practice patrilocal residence which implies that the newly married couple settle with the husband's patrilineal kinship group. In fact, the wedding ceremony dramatically symbolizes the move of the bride from her own kin to those of her husband (Talle, 1988). Only in the case of poverty and lack of livestock, does the husband move to the wife's family. Over their life-span families may change residence several times, but every time they settle in a new place they seek out relatives or stock friends of the husband. Thus the residence group is a male-related group, but in-married women form strong ties of sentiment and solidarity among themselves (Llewelyn-Davies, 1979).

Married women of the same settlement organize ad hoc cooperative groups to assist each other at delivery and circumcision of girls. These are normally events in a single homestead, except that the circumcizer and individual helpers (often relatives) may come from farther away.

Women of larger neighborhoods consisting of several settlements gather every 3 or 4 years for fertility delegations (olamal). When prosperity and growth in people and cattle are said to be receding, women— females being the incarnation of fertility in Maasai cosmology—are instrumental in rectifying the situation by touring the country and begging for sacrificial animals to appease the divine. The delegations culminate in a large and spectacular blessing ceremony (Spencer, 1988).

Women of a neighborhood also collect for punitive delegations (olkeshuroto) when husbands or wives have failed to fulfill their reproductive obligations. For instance if a woman, repeatedly refuses her husband sex, without any "good" reason, the other women of the homestead will take action and virtually carry her into bed, waiting there for the husband to perform the act in their presence. The refusal of a wife to sleep with her husband occurs chiefly in the case of young women married to elderly men.

All female-related groups are formed on the basis of proximity in residence, while male-related groups spring out of structural ties through kinship and age-set organization. The strongest gender-related group in the Maasai society is the moran community. During the emanyata period, which lasts for several years, they establish a close and intimate relationship that last for the rest of their lives.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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