Kakenya Ntaiya – WOMAN of ACTION™

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A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this spiritual driven woman, one that has devoted her life to bettering the lives of girls by providing them with the education they need to achieve a self-sustainable lifestlye, specializing on the Maasai community. 



Kakenya Ntaiya

Kakenya Ntaiya

Founder of Kakenya Center for Excellence

Life for Kakenya Ntaiya was supposed to follow the traditional path.

Kakenya_picture-200x300Engaged at age 5, she was to be circumcised by the time she was a teenager, an event that would mark the end of her education and the beginning of her preparations for marriage. But Kakenya had a different plan.

First, she negotiated with her father: she would be circumcised only if she could also finish high school.

He agreed.

Then she negotiated with the village elders to do what no girl had ever done: leave her Maasai village of Enoosaen in south Kenya to go to college in the United States. She promised that she would use her education to benefit Enoosaen. The entire village collected money to pay for her journey.

Kakenya received a scholarship to Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Virginia. The girl who grew up without electricity wrote papers on international relations and political science on the computers in the university library. She went on to the University of Pittsburgh, where she received her Doctorate in Education in 2011. While completing her studies in the U.S., she married and had two children.

As an undergraduate, she became the first youth advisor to the United Nations Population Fund. In that capacity, she traveled around the world as a passionate advocate for girls’ education, which she sees as a crucial tool for fighting the practices of female genital mutilation and child marriage.

Kakenya is now fulfilling her promise to her community. As the founder and president of Kakenya Center for Excellence, a girls’ primary boarding school in Enoosaen, Kenya, Kakenya believes that education will empower and motivate young girls to become agents of change in their community and country. The Center opened its doors in May 2009 and currently has 155 students in grades four through eight. It has become a beacon of hope to the girls and parents in Enoosaen.

Kakenya was honored with a Vital Voices Global Leadership award in 2008 and as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2010. She was named one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Shake the World” in 2011 and counted among the Women Deliver 100: The Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women. She was a featured speaker at TEDx Midatlantic Conference in 2012 and honored as a CNN Hero in 2013. Her story has been the subject of a Washington Post series, a BBC documentary, and many magazine articles.

The Kakenya Center for Excellence: An Agent of Change

The Kakenya Center for Excellence is a primary boarding school for girls in Enoosaen, Kenya, focused on serving the most vulnerable underprivileged Maasai girls.

The Kakenya Center for Excellence

Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE) is a non-profit organization focused on serving the most vulnerable and underprivileged girls in Kenya. Founded by Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya in 2008, the organization has built the first primary school for girls in Enoosaen, Kenya, focused on academic excellence, female empowerment, leadership, and community development. This school is run in partnership with the Government of Kenya.

kak 100_0884KCE also reaches out to girls in the community through a health and leadership training program and has launched an income-generating project to economically empower women and girls in the surrounding community. KCE 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 mutilation (FGM) and early forced marriage. These future leaders will improve their community, their nation, and the world.

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 mutilation 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.

ntaiya-school-300x300We 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.
34-year-old Ntaiya, an educator and activist, began working in 2008 to build what ultimately became the Kakenya Center for Excellence, the first and only school for girls in her home region. Despite the school being only four years old, it already ranks among the top in the district. She is the first girl from her village to pursue an education, earning a scholarship to pursue an undergraduate degree at Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Virginia. She wrote her dissertation at the Pitt School of Education’s PhD program in social and comparative analysis in education and finished in 2010.

Ntaiya believes that education will empower and motivate young girls to become agents of change in their communities. She spent her time in the United States promoting awareness of the issues affecting Kenyan girls. She was the first youth advisor to the United Nations Population Fund and 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.

Ntaiya, who had been promised in marriage at the age of 5, negotiated with her father and agreed to be circumcised if he would allow her to finish high school. She then convinced the village elders to permit her to leave her village in southern Kenya to attend college in the United States. The entire village collected money to pay for her journey. Her promise was that one day she would use her education to benefit Enoosaen.

For thousands of families in Kenya, seven cows are more valuable than a girl’s future.

Those cows, a typical bridal dowry in Maasai culture, prove so tempting that most fathers in rural areas decide their daughter’s education will end and marriage begin by age 13. Traditionally this event is preceded by female genital circumcision, a mutilation that remains a mystery to the girls until the moment it is performed. The girls, children themselves, will immediately start their own families and live out their days carrying water from the river, gathering firewood, and tending the treasured cows.

Now, a building rises in one remote village that could change everything: The region’s first and only primary school for girls. Its creation an act of sheer will, stubborn persistence, and inexplicable optimism on the part of Kakenya Ntaiya.

Not long ago, Ntaiya was a village girl herself.

Firstborn of eight children, Ntaiya shouldered unusual responsibilities even by local standards. Her father, a policeman, worked in a distant city. His absence, the lack of an older brother, and extreme poverty required Ntaiya to plow her own fields as well as work side by side with men on sugarcane farms. Helping feed and care for younger siblings also fell to Ntaiya, and on the frequent nights when food was scarce, she and her mother went without it.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

fgm-instrumentsFGM is practised as a cultural ritual by ethnic groups in 27 countries in sub-Saharan and Northeast Africa, and to a lesser extent in Asia, the Middle East and within immigrant communities elsewhere. It is typically carried out, with or without anaesthesia, by a traditional circumciser using a knife or razor. The age of the girls varies from weeks after birth to puberty; in half the countries for which figures were available in 2013, most girls were cut before the age of five.

The practice involves one or more of several procedures, which vary according to the ethnic group. They include removal of all or part of the clitoris and clitoral hood; all or part of the clitoris and inner labia; and in its most severe form (infibulation) all or part of the inner and outer labia and the fusion of the wound. In this last procedure, which the WHO calls Type III FGM, a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual blood, and the wound is opened up for intercourse and childbirth. The health effects depend on the procedure but can include recurrent infections, chronic pain, cysts, infertility, complications during childbirth and fatal bleeding.

Around 125 million women and girls in Africa and the Middle East have undergone FGM. Over eight million have experienced Type III, which is predominant in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan. The practice is an ethnic marker, rooted in gender inequality, ideas about purity, modesty and aesthetics, and attempts to control women’s sexuality. It is supported by both women and men in countries that practise it, particularly by the women, who see it as a source of honour and authority, and an essential part of raising a daughter well.

There has been an international effort since the 1970s to eradicate the practice, culminating in a unanimous vote in 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly to take all necessary steps to end it. It has been outlawed in most of the countries in which it occurs, but the laws are poorly enforced. The opposition is not without its critics, particularly among anthropologists, some of whom view the eradicationist position as cultural imperialism. Eric Silverman writes that FGM is one of anthropology’s central moral topics, raising questions about pluralism and multiculturalism within a debate framed by colonial and post-colonial history.


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Kakenya Ntaiya made a deal with her father: She would undergo the traditional Maasai rite of passage of female circumcision if he would let her go to high school. Ntaiya tells the fearless story of continuing on to college, and of working with her village elders to build a school for girls in her community. It’s the educational journey of one that altered the destiny of 125 young women …



MEET Kakenya HERE:

Kakenya Ntaiya (@KakenyaN) on Twitter

TOP 10 CNN HEROES 2013 – Kakenya Ntaiya

Kakenya Ntaiya | Facebook

Kakenya Ntaiya – National Geographic


A Celebration of Women™

welcomes this powerhouse of spirit with open arms, and embrace the vision of collaboration in bettering the lives of all girls/women starting in a little village in Kenya, changing the world.


Brava Kakenya!


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