And in the end, the elders decided that everyone in their community would be better off if they supported women's equal rights.
The impact on the community, as spotlighted in this short video, was immediate and significant.
-- Women have been elected tribal elders for the first time.
-- Women are using their family resources to ensure their daughters can attend school
-- Women are gaining rights to jointly control family resources.
-- Women are opening their own businesses.
-- And crimes against women, such as rape and domestic abuse, are being addressed in a serious manner.
The elders are as delighted by this turn of events as the women.
"I am very happy and grateful to Landesa for letting us know about the constitution," said Maasai Elder Paul Mpuyuk. "I think this is a great thing."
And the elders believe in this so deeply, that they have become both role models and enforcers for these new attitudes. Some have very publicly provided their wives with title to family land, they all now require that men get their wives' approval before selling any family land, and they have taken a harder line on violence against women.
This model has obvious implications for work elsewhere in Africa where constitutions recognize the role of tribal elders and chiefs and promise women equal rights but the reality has fallen short. The model indicates that tribal elders and chiefs can be powerful tools for progressive change -- as effective as the American Cancer Society's sophisticated advertising campaigns, MADD's ubiquitous bumper stickers, and Dr. Spock's authoritative books.