Last night the 28 Too Many team were delighted to attend the gala premiere of WARRIORS, a documentary that follows the progress of a cricket team of Maasai warriors.
The film tells the story of a cricket team of Maasai warriors in Kenya who are invited to play in the final of the 2013 Last Man Stands World Championships, a global, amateur cricket tournament hosted at Lord’s cricket ground in London. However, for this unique team, their journey to the home of cricket represents more than just sporting prowess. Forgoing cricket whites for their traditional dress, WARRIORS follows Sonyanga Ole Ngais, and his eye-catching team of Maasai as they use cricket to raise awareness of social problems in their community of Ilpolei, near Mount Kenya.
The Maasai’s largely pastoral communities are male dominated. Education opportunities are minimal, particularly for girls, and HIV/Aids is prevalent in approximately 7% of the population. Job opportunities are almost non-existent with per capita income amongst the lowest in East Africa. Women have few rights and ancient practices such a female genital mutilation (FGM) and early forced marriage are commonplace for girls as young as eight.
It is this combination of the inspiring story of the young men fighting both for their place in the Last Man Stands finals and also for positive changes in their community that makes WARRIORS such a compelling story. The mission of the Maasai Cricket Warriors is to highlight harmful Maasai traditions to the next generation, bring gender equality to the region and attempt to instigate change. Maasai wisdom dictates that “the eye that leaves the village sees further”, yet despite this, the team faces resistance from the elders of their community – well-respected, influential men who believe in upholding Maasai practices and fear the loss of such traditions will herald the end of the Maasai.
WARRIORS director Barney Douglas commented: “The unique image of a Maasai Warrior playing cricket drew me in to this project, but as filming progressed I realised it was about so much more: gender equality, human rights, the power of sport. It’s a hopeful, inspirational story with a global message - that young people have a role to play in shaping their world, that they have rights, and that they can be leaders, whether it’s in a sports team, a community, or an entire country. For me personally, to be taken into the trust of the families and contributors was a rare privilege and hopefully we’ve done their story, their bravery, and their culture justice.”
Captain of the Maasai cricket team, Sonyanga Ole Ngais, said: “In our society, the women or the girls are treated as inferior, and it's no good. That is something we have to change. We are not saying we abandon all our good culture, only the harmful practices such as female genital mutilation. It is very hard to go against the elders, but cricket is giving us that courage, and that confidence. We are very proud of what it means to be Maasai and that is why we play in our traditional robes."
James Anderson, England cricketer and WARRIORS executive producer, commented: “I’ve had so much joy from the game of cricket, so when I first heard about the Maasai team I was fascinated with their story. They walk 15 kilometres just to get to cricket training, past elephants and giraffes. A bit different from my own drive down the M6! In the world of international cricket, it’s easy to forget that sport has the power to inspire change lives, particularly those of young people. I hope WARRIORS shows that.”
The film ends on a hopeful note showing the warriors encouraging their community to stop FGM and this important work continues. Since filming ended 28 Too Many and sports development charity Cricket Without Boundaries partnered with the Maasai Cricket Warriors to run the first anti-FGM programme in their community and lay foundations for further work in the team’s home region of Laikipia.
Attending the premiere, Ann-Marie Wilson, Executive Director of 28 Too Many said: “I am proud that 28 Too Many partner with the Warriors to support their work on achieving gender equality and ending the harmful practices of FGM and early forced marriage. WARRIORS is a moving and beautiful film which will hopefully inspire many more to join the movement to end FGM in Kenya and globally.”