CNN Hero: Kakenya Ntaiya

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Kakenya Ntaiya and Students

Kakenya Ntaiya and Students

Kakenya opened her first primary school in 2009, The Kakenya Center for Excellence which currently enrolls more than 150 girls. Please visit http://www.kakenyasdream.org to learn more.

The Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE) is a non-profit organization focused on serving the most vulnerable and underprivileged girls in Kenya. Founded by Kakenya Ntaiya in 2008, the organization has built the first primary school for girls in Enoosaen, Kenya that focuses on academic excellence, female empowerment, leadership, and community development. Located in the Keyian Division of the Trans Mara District of Kenya, the Center opened in May 2009 with 32 students. We have now enrolled 155 students in grades four through eight. KCE is the realization of Kakenya’s dream to forever alter the lives of girls in her village through education, empowerment and leadership.

MISSION

The Kakenya Center for Excellence seeks to empower and motivate young girls through education to become agents of change and to break the cycle of destructive cultural practices in Kenya such as female genital cutting and early forced marriage. These future leaders will improve their community, their nation, and the world. We challenge ourselves to come up with the best educational system for young African girls and we promise to share our model with others. We believe in impacting one girl at time, one community at time, until all girls in Africa have the opportunities they need to learn and thrive as individuals and achieve their full potential. We start our mission in Enoosaen, Kenya, where we have built the first girls’ primary boarding school.

Her Story

My life was set to follow the traditional path of all girls born in the small Maasai village of Enoosaen, Kenya where I grew up. Engaged at the age of 5, I was to be circumcised by the time I became a teenager—an event that would mark the end of my education and the beginning of my preparations for marriage.

But I had a different plan. First, I negotiated with my father. I would willingly agree to be circumcised (a practice known as Female Genital Cutting) only if he would allow me to finish high school. He agreed. Then a few years later I negotiated with the village elders to do what no girl had ever done before: leave my village in southern Kenya to go to college in the United States. I promised that I would use my education to benefit Enoosaen. Showing their support, the entire village collected money to pay for my airfare to the United States.


I received a scholarship to Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Virginia. Once the girl who grew up without electricity, I became the student who wrote papers on international relations and political science on the computers at the university library. In September 2011, I received a Doctorate in Education from the University of Pittsburgh

Throughout my time in the United States, I have engaged in efforts to promote awareness of the issues affecting girls in my community. As the first Youth Advisor to the United Nations Population Fund, I have traveled around the world to speak on the importance of educating girls, particularly as a means to fight the practices of female genital mutilation and child marriage.

Today, I am working to fulfill the promise I made years ago: to return to my village and give back. I am building a girls’ school in Enoosaen so that the lives of other young African girls might forever be altered through education, empowerment and leadership. This is my dream.

Courtesy of CNN.com and kakenyasdream.org

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