By Nemasira Sairowua
Heads often turn when Charity Lemein drives by in her safari Toyota Landcruiser. Sighting a female safari guide is a rarity. Well, not that much anymore, but it is still uncommon. Charity is one of the seven safari guides working for the Ishara Luxury Camp in the Maasai Mara.
Charity, who says she proudly serves as a guide, has been in the field for six years. “I was fortunate to get a scholarship from the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association to study safari guiding at Koyiaki Guiding School in 2018 after high school.” She completed her bronze-level guiding course. She further explains that the scholarship allowed her to carve out her path in the male-dominated field of tour guiding and discover her true passion—wildlife. “I can proudly say I have the best job in the world,” she enthuses.
Charity now boasts of being among an elite group of female guides in the Mara region, bringing transformational change. Charity says she trains others on wildlife conservation, sustainable travel, habitat protection and restoration. “I am a devoted mother of two beautiful children and a breadwinner to many, especially my family,” she adds.
Charity is among 2,257 beneficiaries (1,689 female) of a four-year youth empowerment programme called the Mara Vocational Training Programme MMWCA rolled out in 2018. The Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Higher Education funded the initiative through Basecamp Explorer Foundation Kenya. The programme sought to enhance the employability of the youth, especially women. In this regard, MMWCA partnered with the Narok West Technical Training Institute, Mara Training Centre, Mara Discovery Centre, Koyiaki Guiding School, Karen Blixen Cooking School, The Maa Trust and Maasai Mara University to realise the programme’s objective.
The programme support went beyond educational grants to cover curriculum development and certification for partner institutions, strategic planning and governance, sustainable financing, capacity building for trainers, course delivery and project management, and monitoring and evaluation.
The programme has increased the number of local youths employed in the tourism sector, which is significant because youth employment at the Maasai Mara reduces overreliance on land leases from conservancies and pressure to convert land uses. Young people currently constitute most of the Mara Conservancies and MMWCA workforce.
Nemasira is MMWCA’s Senior Grants Officer