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Ntaiya, Kakenya, E (2012) WARRIOR’S SPIRIT: THE STORIES OF FOUR WOMEN FROM KENYA’S ENDURING TRIBE. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The Maasai people of East Africa are well known throughout the world because of their strict traditions and customs. Men in this tribe are known for their fearlessness, courage and power as warriors. To become a warrior, one is required to kill a lion using a spear. These warriors are expected to defend their families and clans from all danger and harm.

In this study, I examine a different kind of warrior. These warriors do not kill lions nor do they carry spears; they are women with a warrior’s spirit. The women whose stories I tell are brave, determined and resilient in defending their own rights and ensuring they provide for their families. I narrate their stories of how they overcome the traditional roles that society dictates for women and pursued an education, acquiring employment outside the home. Although these women had to undergo female genital cutting and some were abducted to be married at a young age, they continued to fight and challenge traditions in order to become the people they are today. Their spirit and determination are essential traits that allowed them to overcome the restricting traditions that have hindered many women from pursuing an education.

I interpret their stories through the lenses of human capital, human capability and feminist theories. Human capital theory tells us that education is a key determinant of earning an income and is essential for poor families to come out of poverty. A common element in the stories of all the women is a shared motive driving their resilience: the need for employment that would somehow enable them to earn an income. Human capability theory focuses on the ability to live a life that one values. Feminist theory helps to answer the question of women’s subordination to men and all the challenges the women had to overcome to become the people they are today.

Their stories reveal several factors that enable women in oppressive circumstances to succeed. These include exposure and environmental factors, family and guardianship support and personal resilience. The study highlights the challenges the women faced, the many ways they overcame them and how they are changing traditional norms in the Maasai community of Kenya.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ntaiya, Kakenya,
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGarman, Noreenngarman@pitt.eduNGARMAN
Committee MemberJacob, J. William wjacob@pitt.eduWJACOB
Committee MemberGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.eduMGUNZEN
Committee MemberWhite, Harveyhlw@pitt.eduHLW
Date: 12 January 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 27 September 2011
Approval Date: 12 January 2012
Submission Date: 15 November 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 172
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Girls' Education, Kenya, Africa, Maasai, Maasai Women, Women Resilience, Resilience, Female Genital Cutting, early marriage, gender and education
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2012 14:56
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:55


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