Kakenya Ntaiya

Kakenya Ntaiya is a passionate girl-child educator whose love for education prompted her to found the Kakenya Center for Excellence in 2008. This donor-funded boarding primary school for girls has two prerequisite conditions for admission — that none of the girls would undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) and that they would not be be
married off until adulthood.

These are some of the hurdles Ntaiya had to overcome to get educated. She was betrothed to a six-year-old boy when she was only five and set to be circumcised. She faced challenges that are all so common to young Maasai girls. The first of eight children, Ntaiya had to shoulder many responsibilities at a tender age taking care of her siblings, ploughing fields and working in sugarcane farms. Her father, a policeman who worked in a distant town, left her with the burden of helping her mother fend for her siblings.

Ntaiya negotiated a deal with her father so that she could complete her education. She agreed to undergo the rite of circumcision in return for finishing school. Her gamble paid off and she was able to complete her high school education and was accepted into a university in the US. Unfortunately, her family was unable to fund her studies, especially in the US, after her father was paralysed and hospitalised. The family had to sell most of their property to
offset the medical bills.

Ntaiya opted for another gamble for her education. She approached an influential village elder and with his sway they were able to persuade the community to help raise money for her to study in the US. The social activist promised to return and build a school and a maternity facility for the community. This is exactly what she did. The school opened its doors in May 2009 with 32 students. It has grown over the years and 100 per cent of the alumni are currently enrolled in high schools. In 2011, the school launched a health and leadership programme to train young girls to become agents of change, and to break the cycle of destructive cultural practices in Kenya such as FGM
and forced marriages.

The school also has a programme dubbed Network for Excellence that ensures students remain in school. The programme also supports the girls to pursue their dreams after they leave the school. Ntaiya stands strong and hopes that her school will nurture many female leaders who will change the world.

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