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.
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Kakenya Ntaiya was set to follow the traditional path of girls born in the small village of Enoosaen, Kenya. Engaged at the age of 5, she was to participate in a female circumcision ceremony as a young teenager and then be married. But she had a different plan. First, she negotiated with her father and willingly agree to be circumcised -- only if he would allow her to finish high school. Later, when she was accepted to Randolph Macon College in Viriginia, she negotiated with her village elders to do what no girl had ever done before: leave her village to go to college in the United States.
She didn’t leave forever, though. Deeply proud of her heritage and of her community, Ntaiya returned to the village after school and worked with her elders to establish a school for girls there. The Kakenya Center for Excellence was established in 2009 with 32 students. A primary grade boarding school just for girls, the curriculum focuses on academics, leadership and female empowerment, along with cultural preservation and life skills. While families that can afford tuition do, Ntaiya also works with donors to provide scholarships for others.
"For thousands of families in Kenya, seven cows are more valuable than a girl’s future ... 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. "