20-something California entrepreneur Mindy Budgor wanted to find meaning beyond mani pedis, just-out-of-the-oven croissants (her fave), and her BMW, so she decided to become the Maasai tribe's first-ever female warrior, thus literally saving Africa. She hasn't captured Joseph Kony as of yet, but she does have a book deal!
Mindy went to Kenya on a short humanitarian program after turning in business school apps and, like so many white girls before her, loved how Africa made her feel about herself even though she didn't look cute. "I knew that being left alone with my thoughts and nature was exactly what I needed," she told the Guardian.
“If you’d told me a year earlier that I’d be deep in the bush, hair knotted from days in the forest, running in the direction of a 1,300-pound [buffalo] that could make short work of me, I’d have told you to get your head examined,” she told Glamour. “Yet there I was. And I’d never been more sure I was in the right place.”
But this isn't about Mindy's needs. This is about AFRICA's needs. And before her two week trip was up, Mindy knew what was best for the Maasai:
On a hike I asked [Chief] Winston the question that had been gnawing at me since I met him: "How many women are warriors?"
His reply: "None. Women aren't strong or brave enough to do it."
His response ignited a fire within me that made me want prove him wrong. I asked him to explain what was involved in becoming a warrior. He said: "You need to be a man. You need to go through rites of passage that only a man can do. You need to live where you can only eat meat and drink blood and herb soup that makes you lose your mind. You need to get circumcised and not wince from the pain. You need to be fearless. You need to protect and entertain your community and be able to face any animal head-on. You need to be able to throw a spear and use a sword with total accuracy. And you need to be a man
I said: "Don't Maasai women want to be warriors?"
"Of course they do. Who wouldn't want to be like us?"
"And they've never had a chance?"
"But everything you just said is something a woman can do – something I can do – except for the penis part," I said.
The Chief wasn't entertained. "Women aren't built emotionally or physically for the work that warriors do." He shrugged his sculpted shoulders and turned back to the mountain. Winston's words and that shrug made me furious! I can take no for an answer if there's a good reason, but the idea that women couldn't be warriors just because they weren't men wasn't sitting well with me. Winston and I made a deal that if I left my stilettos behind, he would take me through the traditional rites of passage to become a warrior.
Mindy went home, hired a personal trainer to shape up (obvs), and came back. Winston no longer wanted to help her — perhaps his offer was a ruse to get her to shut up and go back home — but she found another warrior who agreed to run her and a friend through the same training that Maasai men do. It was hard — "I had a daily urge to wave the white flag, especially after 10 smelly days without a bath," she recalled — but she pulled through.
After she killed a buffalo, elders decided Mindy and her friend should be officially recognized as the first female Maasai warriors (I'm still convinced this is all bullshit and it was the only way they could get rid of her). Now, everything is perfect:
While making this change is not unanimously accepted by men and women in the tribe, the vast majority believe steps towards equality will help sustain the culture in the long term, and one of those steps is allowing women to become warriors. And I am so proud to say that there are at least 20 girls in Loita who are ready to be part of the next warrior age set.
It's like The Help, but with spears and punchy tribal prints.