Meeri Tuya

Imagine a life unlike your own. Imagine being married at a young age to a much-older man, only to find yourself soon after pregnant, widowed, and alone. Who would you turn to? Where would you go? After Meeri Tuya’s husband died and her family turned her away, she walked pregnant through the African bush for three nights and three days, sleeping in treetops to protect herself from wild animals.

Then she met Nini of the Maji Moto Widows Project who encouraged her to join the village and start her new life there. The Maji Moto Widows’ village was founded in 2007 by Salaton Ole Ntutu and Hellen Nkuraiya on land belonging to Salaton. They established the village to welcome and assist women like Meeri, women who are considered by the Maasai culture to be outside the traditional circle of community life once widowed.

The women of Maji Moto work together to earn income as artists creating and selling traditional Maasai beadwork. The money earned is divided so that each woman in the village receives a portion and a portion goes into a collective pool that members of the group communally decide how to use. Together, the women of the village design their own future, educate their children, and work to create a healthy and sustainable life.

Thanks to the village, Meeri is now attending high school and she is passionate to further empower and develop her community. Her daughter is being taken care of by Nini and other widows in the village, and will one day learn to bead from them. The women of Maji Moto protect each other and reinforce the cultural value of Maasai beadwork. The income from beading gives the women of the village a safe, sustainable place to live and raise their children. Meeri attended her very first International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe in 2014.