Working with The Girl Who Demanded Education
By Sharon Langevin
Kakenya Ntaiya grew up in a community where most girls do not get a chance to complete their education. In her powerful talk at a TEDx event, she talks about her experience growing up in the Maasai village of Enoosaen, Kenya. As a young girl, she fought to stay in school so that she could achieve her dream of becoming a teacher, despite resistance from her father and the community elders.
Today, Kakenya is an inspiration to other girls and women in her community. She has dedicated herself to providing an opportunity for girls to finish school and pursue their own dreams. Kakenya’s journey has led to the founding of the Kakenya Centre for Excellence and, more recently, her nomination for a CNN hero award that would recognize her work in empowering girls and changing the mindsets of many in her community.
And we are thrilled to share with all of you that the Kakenya Centre for Excellence (KCE) has partnered with Worldreader to bring 5,000 life-changing e-books to 156 girls, leading to better reading skills and serving as the foundation for building a reading culture in Enoosaen.
Starting a New Cycle of Change
Kakenya founded KCE, in part, to follow her dream to eliminate female circumcision and early marriage from Maasai communities in Kenya. There’s still much work to be done, however. About 90 percent of girls in Maasai communities experience genital mutilation and early marriage, and only 11 percent complete primary school. Kakenya hopes to change these statistics. In fact, she is already having a positive impact there.
Her school, which opened in 2009 to serve students in the fourth to eighth grades, gives girls access to high-quality education, leadership training and information about women’s health. None of the girls at her school, now fully enrolled with 156 girls from the Keyian Division of the Transmara District, will experience genital mutilation, and the very first class is set to graduate this month.
Empowering Girls With Books
Needless to say, we were honored to spend the week in Enoosaen with Kakenya, Dorothy (program manager of the Kakenya Dream Organization and Worldreader’s e-reader project manager), the school’s talented staff and the wonderfully curious girls.
Muthoni, Worldreader’s publishing associate for East Africa, led the team, which included me and Sarah, Worldreader’s educational program manager. Throughout the week, we spent time talking with the girls, who told us of their dreams to become teachers, doctors, pilots and engineers. Kakenya’s story has inspired them to set their sights high and never to give up working towards achieving their goals.
Coincidentally, too, it’s nice being back in Maasai-land. This region has a special place in Worldreader’s heart. We launched our first program in Kenya more than two years ago about 45 minutes down the road from Kakenya’s school at The Kilgoris Project and Ntimigom School, where kids are still loving books.
Help Kakenya Win
Kakenya has been lauded for her work by many, and I speak from personal experience when I say that this is an incredibly genuine woman who is doing all she can to give back to her community.
Previously, she received a Vital Voices Global Leadership award in 2008 and was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2010. This year, she is nominated to be one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes, and she needs your help to win that honor! Please take a moment to visit heroes.cnn.com to vote for Kakenya to become CNN Hero of the Year so that she can get one step closer to achieving her dream of eradicating female genital mutilation and ensuring that every girl in her community gets a quality education.
Go Kakenya! We’re rooting for you!