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14 July 2015

Playing cricket and fighting injustice

Playing cricket and fighting injustice

Warriors, a documentary following the progress of a cricket team of Maasai warriors who use the sport to raise awareness about social injustice in their home community, premiered last night.

The independent film, produced by England cricketer James Anderson, tells the story of the team of tribesmen from Kenya who were invited to play in the final of the Last Man Stands World Championships in 2013, an amateur tournament hosted at Lord's. For this unique team, the opportunity represented more than just cricket prowess. It was a chance to make a difference to people back in Ilpolei, their home community.

Maasai communities are largely male dominated. Education opportunities for girls are minimal andwomen have few rights. Practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and forced marriages are common for girls as young as eight years old. In addition, there is a massive HIV/Aids problem, with as much as 7 per cent of the population infected.

Warriors follows the story of these unlikely players, led by Sonyanga Ole Ngais, who spurned cricket whites for their traditional dress to highlight the impact of harmful traditions on the next generation. However, the team faced strong opposition from the elders of the community, who feared that abandoning parts of Maasai culture would be the end of them.

In the face of this resistance from those keen to uphold traditions, Sonyanga said that cricket had inspired confidence in the warriors to carry on fighting for their cause. He insisted that they weren't trying to deny their culture by protesting the harmful practices, saying that they were "very proud of what it means to be Maasai, and that is why we play in our traditional robes".

Director of Warriors, 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 and 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."

28 Too Many proudly partner with the Maasai Cricket Warriors and Cricket Without Boundaries to deliver a pioneering new sports based anti-FGM programme in Kenya. This ties in with the new documentary film.