Monday, March 24, 2014

Kakenya Ntaiya - Extraordinary People Changing the Game

Why Kakenya Ntaiya is Extraordinary

Kakenya Ntaiya underwent female genital mutilation at the age of 13. She opted not to run away, however, to avoid putting her father in a bad light. Another reason why she stayed was the allure of education; not a single woman in her Maasai community had made it to college. Rather, they are usually married-off at an early age. Kakenya herself was engaged to a six-year-old neighbor when she was only five years old. But this woman became the first to complete a college degree with the help of the Maasai community, and gave back by founding a school for girls called “The Kakenya Center for Excellence.”

Undergoing FGM

Kakenya grew up fully aware that she would soon marry a boy who lived next-door and, just like the other women of her Maasai community, serve her family for the rest of her life. But that did not sit well with the young girl who dreamt of becoming a teacher; getting married would stall her, if not stop her altogether, from becoming the person she wanted to be. Rather than walk away, however, she agreed to go through the rite of passage to prepare her for married life in exchange for a few more years in school.
When her father got sick, Kakenya braved to try her luck further. This time, she convinced all 16 of her community’s leaders to allow her to attend a college in the U.S. with the promise of returning one day to help her people.

Founding “The Kakenya Center for Excellence”

It was in the United States where Kakenya came across political terms such as “female genital mutilation,” “human rights” and “child marriages.” She realized that her people’s lack of education had kept them behind. Even worse, thousands of young girls are losing their clitorises and being forced to bear children, in spite of practically being children themselves. Kakenya decided to take on a whole nation and fight against ignorance by providing education to girls like her, and, once more, she appealed to the men who called the shots. They supported her, and “The Kakenya Center for Excellence” was born.
It’s a school for girls that not only gives them quality education, but also allows them to just be kids. Then the magic started happening – the once-timid children became confident. They discovered their talents, and now aim to become pilots, teachers and doctors, and dream just like Kakenya. Now, we hear men say this of her:
"We have several sons who have gone to the United States for school. Kakenya is the only one that I can think of that has come back to help us. What she tells us, it touches us. ... She brought a school and a light and is trying to change old customs to help girls get a new, better life." – Naleke, Maasai Tribal Leader (SOURCE: CNN)

Top Reasons why Kakenya Ntaiya is Extraordinary

  1. She underwent female genital mutilation (FGM) at age 13 to continue going to school rather than shame her father by running away.
  2. She made it to a U.S. college as a scholar.
  3. She gave back to her Maasai Community by establishing “The Kakenya Center for Excellence.”
  4. The prize money she received as a Vital Voices Global Leadership awardee was used to complete the institution.
  5. She was honored as a “National Geographic Emerging Explorer.”
  6. She was also named as one of the “2013 CNN Heroes.”
  7. She was named one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Shake the World.”
  8. She was a featured speaker at TEDx Midatlantic Conference.
  9. She was honored with the “Global Women’s Right Award” from the Feminist Majority Foundation and counted among the “Women Deliver 100: The Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women.”
  10. She received the “Sheth International Young Alumni Achievement Award” and was named by Women in the World as a “Woman of Impact."

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