DAASANACH INITIATIVE

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The Plight of the Daasanach People

The Daasanach (also known as the Marille or Geleba) are an ethnic group inhabiting parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan. Their main homeland is in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region, adjacent to Lake Turkana. This zone is named for the Omo River, the largest Ethiopian river outside the Nile Basin. The Omo River  empties into Lake Turkana on the Kenyan border. 

The Daasanach are traditionally pastoralists, but in recent years have become primarily agro-pastoral. Having lost the majority of their lands over the past fifty years or so, primarily as a result from being excluded from their traditional Kenyan lands, including on both sides of Lake Turkana, and the ‘Ilemi Triangle’ of Sudan, they have suffered a massive decrease in the numbers of cattle, goats and sheep. As a result, large numbers of them have moved to areas closer to the Omo River, where they attempt to grow enough crops to survive. There is much disease along the river (including tsetse, which has increased with forest and woodland development there), however, making this solution to their economic plight difficult. Like many pastoral peoples throughout this region of Africa, the Daasanach are a highly egalitarian society, with a social system involving age sets and clan lineages – both of which involve strong reciprocity relations.

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Only 60 Daasanach have graduated high school since independence in 1964

FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation.

The Daasanach practice genital mutilation as a rite of passage. Women are circumcised by removing the clitoris. Women who are not circumcised are called animals or boys and cannot get married or wear clothes. 

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