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Are we our sister’s keeper? If not us, who will invest in girls’ education?
The economic and moral case for girls’ education is clear through my own story and the story of girls like Nasieku who came to the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE) as a timid 10 year old. Nasieku’s parents were preparing her to undergo genital mutilation and, as was the norm in our village, to marry her off in exchange for livestock. When they heard about the KCE boarding school and our mission of excellence, education and empowerment for rural girls, they wanted to know more. Nasieku’s parents learned that they could enroll their daughter in our innovative boarding school, which is dedicated to advancing the development of my small Masaai village, Kenya, and Africa through transformational education for girls.
Nasieku’s parents discovered that in order to enroll her in our KCE boarding school, they would need to agree, as must all KCE parents, to protect her from genital mutilation. Their decision to reject social norms and partner with us in Nasieku’s education, and to invest in her future, has forever changed Nasieku’s life story.
Six years ago, many caring people helped Kakenya Center for Excellence open our doors to educate girls in Southwestern Kenya. Before that, the future for girls in my village was very bleak indeed. Before KCE, girls as young as 8 or 9 years old were very likely to undergo the painful rite of female genital mutilation (FGM). Young girls were being forced into early marriage, and any girl who had actually started school would likely have been pulled away to a life of servitude, poverty, and marginalization.
Nasieku’s story mirrors my own. I was born in a small Maasai village (Enoosaen) in southern Kenya. Life for me was supposed to follow the traditional path. When I was 14, a crowd of villagers gathered at my home for a ceremony that would mark the end of my education and the beginning of my preparation for marriage. With no anesthesia, a village elder used a rusty knife to cut my private body parts.
But I had a different plan. I negotiated with my father that I would undergo FGM only if I could also finish high school. He agreed. I then negotiated with the village elders to do what no girl had ever done: leave my village to attend college in the United States. I promised that I would someday return and use my education to benefit our village. I received a scholarship to Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Virginia and went on to the University of Pittsburgh, to receive my Doctorate in Education.
I am now fulfilling my promise to my community and taking to every corner of the world the importance of girls education and the victory that can be won for girls in spite of harmful cultural practices and traditions.
As the founder and president of Kakenya Center for Excellence, I believe that education will empower young girls to become agents of change in our country. Please join the movement!
Be The Change
There’s no doubt that the world has made a lot of progress in the last several years, but for girls and women, there’s still work to do.Check out our great partners below who are doing important work on this issue.
girls and women alive today have been victims of female genital mutilation
the number of years later a girl in the developing world marries when she receives seven or more years of education
One in nine
girls in the developing world is married before the age of 15.
See who's making a difference
Founded by actor and writer Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker, the Smart Girls organization is dedicated to helping young...
The Nike Foundation works to unleash the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and for the...
CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. We place special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped...
#ONEderWoman of the Week: Sarah Toumi
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For more on Sarah’s amazing story and other young men and women around the globe creating change in their communities, check out this blog about the 2015 class of Echoing Green fellows.
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