The Maasai are traditionally polygamous with old and young men taking up to three, four or
more wives in their lifetime. The need for a second or third wife is not always for the man’s
satisfaction but for the good of the homestead and other women.
“Having just one wife is bad. I would not have as many children and cows. If you want to
have such a homestead, with plenty of food and Maasai, one wife is not enough,” told Mzee
Isaiah Kodonyo is no exception as he comes from a long line of polygamous families.
Tomorrow morning he takes home a second wife, the only difference being this is not an
Unlike his grandfather and father, Isaiah chose his second wife and unlike most Maasai
women, Eunice is happy to marry a man that she knows and loves.
“You cannot marry a woman you don’t love. You should marry a woman you love,” said
Among all the wives in a Maasai home, there is always the matriarch of the homestead, the
first wife, from whom the home flourished. Leah Kodonyo fondly called Gogo by her
grandchildren is Mzee’s first wife. Leah recalls when she was married off to Mzee Kodonyo.
“When I came from my father’s home, I was 15 years old. Since then, it has been many
years. It is not the girl who chooses the husband. It is the father who chooses for her. That is
what happened to me. I did not choose.”
Contrary to popular belief, the polygamous nature of the Maasai is mainly perpetuated by
the women. In most families, the reason for a second or third wife is due to the insistence of
the first wife or the mother-in- law. The reasons are far and wide, the main one being that
the wife needs more hands to handle the daily chores or is barren and would like a surrogate
Isaiah’s first wife is just as young as he is. Elizabeth Kodonyo is twenty three years old and
like any first wife in the Maasai community, her status in the home is now of higher standing
with the coming of a second wife.
“I am happy that I am getting a companion. We will be staying together like sisters do,” said
Elizabeth Kodonyo – Isaiah first wife.
Eunice Mitao is only eleven years old but she’s exhilarated to be married to Isaiah and be the
“Isaiah and I met at a shop in Embolei. Then we got to know each other better. I wanted to
be the first wife, but I was late and now it is my turn to be the second wife,” she told.
“As a Maasai woman, it is important that you are married. According to Maasai culture, a
woman cannot remain unmarried. You need to get married and have children. A woman
cannot stay without a husband and vice versa,” told Leah Kodonyo.