I am a Maasai lady advocating for climate change using modelling

Dorcas Naishorua, 23 from Kajiado county. She is the Miss Climate Kenya 2023 who holds a diploma in Civil Engineering but also uses modelling and music to advocate matters concerning climate change and promote the rights of Maasai girls and women. Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

At 23, Dorcas Naishorua has won multi titles through her modelling talent. The university student is also an artist who promotes climate change, and the rights of Maasai girls and women through her songs

“For the Maasai, a dying or emaciated cow means loss of livelihood. So when other people are probably feeling the pain of drought because they do not have food it means more than a meal to the pastoralists. It is a lack of school fees, high chances of girls being married off, and loss of family wealth. That makes climate change a subject close to my heart as a young Maasai woman born and bred in Kajiado. 

My parents used to sell animals to raise school fees for me and my siblings. So any death of an animal due to drought means most girls will suffer. They can be married off in exchange for money or healthier cattle. 

Climate change is therefore close to my heart. This year I competed against other youths from 47 counties and won Miss Climate Kenya 2023. We highlighted the innovative efforts that we hope will address climate change in our communities, and I was fortunate to be the winner. It was a close race, and winning it surprised me even though I needed it. 

I intend to stay ahead of the change that I want to see by raising more issues on matters to do with climate change. I am using this title to reach out to organisations that can support my innovative ideas. I have written proposals to government agencies to help me with seedlings because as Miss Climate Kenya 2023, the projects include planting and supporting the growth of trees. It is a title that has also come with a huge responsibility. I am equal to the task.

I am a Maasai lady advocating for climate change using modelling. Photo | Pool

As a little girl, I never knew I would ever walk on the runway and have the audience cheer me up. Being a Maasai girl brought up by strict religious parents, my life revolved around home, school, and church. For that reason, I was not as exposed.

When I finally started college, my classmates told me that my body was ideal for modelling. They challenged me to represent my class, and I accepted. That is when I realised I was physically capable of modelling. Miss Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology 2019 is the title I got in my first year. 

I was to take the initiative and speak out on behalf of my institution on a variety of issues. Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic happened and learning was suspended.

So I had this title that I was not utilising. That is when I founded the Isilan Self-Help Group, a group of young women and girls who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriage, and gender-based violence in Kajiado.

I use the group to empower these young girls and their mothers to make and sell beadwork to buy themselves sanitary towels. We prioritise purchasing these products because it is taboo in most Maasai homes hence a responsibility for girls and women. So if they have their own money, they buy these sanitary pads for themselves and their daughters. That also limits the chances of the girls being married off, an old culture that unfortunately still denies many young girls in my community and other pastoral areas their human rights.

I am one of the lucky Maasai girls whose parents have gone against the cultural norm and supported my education. Because the majority of my age mates do not have the privileges I have, this title means that much is already expected from me. I want to empower young Maasai girls and women with skills using the support of our leaders, my knowledge, and networks so that they can also be in a position to speak for themselves.

You know women and girls from my community are vulnerable. Those of us who are educated and exposed handle life differently. This type of confidence pushes one towards opportunities. For example, since I love music, I decided to join Daystar University where I am currently pursuing a course in Language and Performing Arts. Here I have used my voice and won Miss Culture Daystar University 2022 and One Voice Affinity Centre by a company that partnered with the university. It is advocates youth empowerment and climate change issues through fashion. 

I joined Daystar because of my passion for music. I have noticed that recording music is so costly. After this course, I hope to have my recording studio cut the recording cost. We have recorded five songs that talk about FGM, early marriage, the importance of education, and the environment. 

I believe things have worked for me because of the gift of education. I remember that after I completed KCSE, my dad allowed me to pursue short courses. Although he did not have money, he always found ways to support us. 

In a community that does not see modelling as a positive occupation—they think it’s about a woman walking naked—I was jittery that my dad was going to be unhappy with my decision to model. However, the night I called my mum and told her that I was the winner, of Miss Climate Kenya 2023, my dad got very excited. He congratulated me and told me he was very proud of me. That night it hit me that it is true that when you are a good girl, you are your fathers’ favourite.”