About a year ago I wrote that Olbalbal had decided to ban all alcoholic drinks. Anyone caught drinking or selling alcohol would be fined the equivalent of some hundreds of dollars. Many local Maasai men were selling the family goats and sheep to feed their addiction. Worse yet, young men of warrior age were beginning to be seen in some numbers staggering around the village totally sloshed. The people of the area met, imposed the ban and some stiff fines were imposed. For a while there was no beer or spirits being sold in local shops. The local women, who sold home brew, fermented or distilled, went out of business. For months there was not a drink to be had in Olbalbal village.
This all changed when a new village chairman was elected a couple of months ago. The old chairman had fully agreed with the ban and strongly implemented it. The new head of village affairs took no interest “prohibition.” Soon cases of beer and bottles Konyagi, Tanzanian gin, began to be seen and sold in the local shops. The women of the village returned to their very lucrative activities, sell the local “white lightening” and beer fermented from honey, sugar and corn. Again older men were seen drinking in the “pombe” shops and warrior age men began again to take advantage of the lack of enforcement. Traditionally, it was unheard of for warriors to drink. A new age of chaos was looming in the village.
Then last week, the Maasai women of the area, wives and mothers of the drinkers rose up and came together at a meeting that lasted all day. The first decision, implemented immediately, was to go to the small house of the worse offenders among the women venders of “piwa”, distilled, and “pombe”, fermented alcohol. They surrounded their houses and tore them down till nothing remained of the small houses but a pile of roof grass and sticks. Then they dragged the five worse offenders among the women to the middle of the meeting and beat them with sticks. No one was hurt; the beatings were more symbolic than serious, but it happened non-the less. I was amazed at the lengths to which the Maasai women went. They made their point, houses destroyed and public beatings…there is no more local or any other kind of brew in the village this week.
I don’t know how to comment on this astounding event. It seems something out of the 18th century. I guess the thing to be learned from all this is that when Maasai women get really serious and unified about something, DON’T GET IN THEIR WAY!!