Kakenya's Dream

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 Maasai Kenya such as female genital cutting and early forced marriage. We believe in impacting one girl at a time, one community at a time, until all girls in Africa have the opportunities they need to thrive as individuals. These future women leaders will improve their communities, their nation, and the world.
Sep 12, 2012

Two Leadership Camps Planned for Winter Holiday!

This week the students at the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE) returned to school for the fall term.  With smiles on their faces, excitement in their voices, and determination in their hearts, 124 girls started a new term – a term that will keep them on the path toward achieving their dreams.

 As the new term kicked off, our teachers and staff are reminded of the girls in our district who do not have the same opportunities to learn and succeed.  With that in mind, we have diligently begun planning our next Health and Leadership Camp for the winter holiday. These leadership camps provide the Center with the opportunity to reach a wider circle of at-risk girls throughout our community.  With lifesaving workshops on health and wellness, and vital leadership trainings, we are providing girls with the tools to become strong leaders of our country and world. 

 We are excited to announce that we are planning to host two Health and Leadership Camps during winter break.  Our first camp will model the successful camps we have run in the past.  As in previous camps, we will pair KCE students with girls from other schools throughout the Transmara district.  This partnership enables KCE students to strengthen their leadership skills and creates a strong bond among the girls in our community.

 Our second gathering will introduce a new component to this program. We plan to hold a reunion for all girls that have participated in the past four camps.  This will bring together more than 300 girls to our campus!    We are committed to supporting our girls on an ongoing basis.  The reunion will enable us to gain insight into what lessons have worked, what can be improved and how these camps have made a difference in the girls’ lives.

 Most importantly, we hope the reunion will empower and inspire the girls.  We will hold the session at the time of year when the female genital cutting ceremony traditionally takes place, but our a ceremony will show that these girls are becoming women by empowering them rather than causing them harm. By reuniting hundreds of girls we will show the strength, power and unity that can be achieved by providing girls with tools to protect and love themselves.

 None of this, of course, could be achieved without the generous support of our friends.  On behalf of all the girls we serve, thank you for your continued support.

Jun 26, 2012

Music Festivals and Art Projects

Proudly displaying her artwork
Proudly displaying her artwork

We are now in the middle of the second academic term at Kakenya Center for Excellence.  This is the time when music and drama competitions take place, and our girls are performing in music festivals with students from other schools. There are several different categories for the competitions, including poetry, folk dance, choral chanting, and singing games.  Each school is expected to present at least one category.  As with athletics, the initial competitions are at a local level.  The schools that perform best move on to district-level festivals, followed by regional and then county.  The best two performances from each category qualify to go on to the next level. 

The girls from Kakenya Center love to sing, dance, and perform.  In their first competition, the KCE girls recited a poem by Maya Angelou entitled “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.”  They did very well and qualified for the district-wide competition in Kilgoris. Many parents and people from around the community came to watch the performances, which included traditional Maasai dances and dances from other tribes, including Kalenjin, Kipsigis, and Luo.     

Our 6th grade students have also recently been working on a special art project with our Advocacy Project Peace Fellow.  The theme is Identity: Documenting Maasai Culture through Art, and the girls have completed a number of small art pieces that together will comprise the final project.  So far, they have each written a short autobiography about specific memories, obstacles they have faced in their lives, their dreams, their thoughts on FGM/early-marriage, and when they learned specific Maasai traditions.

Each girl’s story is deeply moving and shows how much their education at KCE has impacted their lives.  One girl, Damaris, wrote about how she was being pressured by her parents to undergo FGM, but through health and leadership camps at KCE and the friends she had at school, she had learned how to say “no”.  In the end, her parents respected her educated response.  She wrote, “I told my mother that F.G.M. is not good.  She told me I would be circumcised.  I told her that girls “say no to F.G.M.” - they taught us in camp.”  The girls are drawing their stories into boxes and shapes and will be painting self-portraits, as well.

These kinds of activities enrich our program and our girls’ academic lives, and we are so grateful for the supporters who partner with us to allow them to continue.  Thank you for believing in our mission to empower young Maasai girls to follow their dreams and to see the potential within themselves.  Together, we are changing the lives of future leaders in Africa.

Autobiography in pictures
Autobiography in pictures
Class 6 hard at work on their projects
Class 6 hard at work on their projects
Performance of a traditional Maasai dance
Performance of a traditional Maasai dance

Links:

Jun 14, 2012

Our biggest holiday camp yet!

Camp group photo
Camp group photo

“I love my body, I say NO to FGM!”  This chant rang out across Kakenya Center for Excellence’s campus during our most recent Health and Leadership Holiday Camp.  Girls proudly declared the empowering phrase, reflecting the sense of self confidence and strength they cultivated over the 6-day camp.  From April 23-28, we hosted 120 girls in grades 6 and 7, the largest camp we have had so far!  As in previous camps, we invited half the participants to come from over 24 schools across the Transmara district.  This gives us an opportunity to build mentoring relationships between our KCE students and girls from the rest of the neighboring community, spreading our hopeful messages and important health and leadership information to girls who do not usually have access to our programs. 

The week was filled with fun activities, starting with a full day of training by I’m Worth Defending, a group based in Nairobi that teaches girls to defend their bodies, to say “NO!”, and to have greater self esteem and confidence.  The girls practiced moves and techniques to protect themselves from physical violence as well as positive self talk to empower them as individuals.  Throughout the week, the girls participated in trainings by several other health and human rights professionals, learning about sexual and reproductive health, life skills, healthy relationships, children’s rights, and other topics. 

The campers also benefited from group and individual counseling sessions, reinforcing these lessons and providing them with a safe space to voice their feelings, questions, and concerns.  This type of open communication allows the girls to seek help for the often serious problems they are facing and for us to gauge the greatest needs of adolescent girls in the community.

Our camps continue to grow in numbers and in impact.  We hope to hold another camp in December 2012 that will reunite the participants from all of our previous camps – 300 girls altogether!  These camps are one of the most exciting, effective, and fun elements of our program, and we are so grateful for the supporters who partner with us to allow them to continue.  Thank you for believing in our mission to empower young Maasai girls to follow their dreams and to see the potential within themselves.  Together, we are changing the lives of future leaders in Africa.

Girls practicing self defense moves
Girls practicing self defense moves
Big group activity outside
Big group activity outside
Life skills and decision making
Life skills and decision making
Happy camper
Happy camper

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