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.
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

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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

Links:

Apr 4, 2012

A few highlights from the past 2 months at KCE

grade 4 girls in computer class
grade 4 girls in computer class

Kakenya Center for Excellence has been filled with activity throughout the current academic term.  We now have 124 students enrolled in grades 4 through 7, and the girls continue to grow into confident young women, excelling academically, socially, and physically. Over the past few months, the exciting events at Kakenya Center have included spelling bees, athletic competitions, and computer classes. 

Spelling Bees: Each class of girls at KCE participated in grade-level spelling bees over the past week, one grade level per day.  On the same four days that KCE held spelling bees, the local public primary school also organized competitions, with support from Kakenya Center.  At both schools, all participants received pencils and the top three were given larger prizes: a backpack, a notebook, and a storybook.  The top ten finishers from each grade level at KCE will compete with their counterparts at Enoosaen Primary School this week.  The first place prize will be an Oxford dictionary!  The girls love these competitions and spend weeks preparing by studying lists of words. 

Volleyball Champions:  Spring is the season for athletic competitions in Transmara District.  Kakenya Center’s volleyball team has had lots of success this year, winning the Transmara West District Championship last week.  They competed against over 100 other girls to achieve this impressive accomplishment.  Next, they will go to the County Championship to represent the entire district against girls from the surrounding area.  We are so proud of them and thrilled at their confidence in their physical abilities.

Computer Classes:  Unlike other primary schools in the area, KCE is fortunate to have a computer lab on our campus.  This allows our girls to learn important IT skills that will be crucial for them to succeed in secondary school and beyond.  Though we run into many challenges with keeping the computers healthy and properly functioning, the girls have been able to learn to type, practicing how to use both hands, compose letters, and write stories.  It has also allowed the girls to become familiar with the internet and the kinds of resources it provides.

We are now looking forward to our next health and leadership holiday camp, which will take place from April 23-28 during the academic break.  The camps give us an opportunity to invite girls who attend other schools in the area to come to our campus and join our own students for a week of training, laughter, and new friends.  Topics for the camp will include self-esteem, health and hygiene, sexually transmitted infections, children’s rights, and volunteership.  The girls are excited for another fun-filled holiday camp.

The highlights above provide only a few snapshots of what your support allows us to do.  We are so grateful for the individuals who believe in our mission of empowering young girls to reach their full potential and to pursue their dreams.  Thank you so much for partnering with us to change the lives of Maasai girls in Kenya!

KCE volleyball player jumping to score a point
KCE volleyball player jumping to score a point
spelling bee contestant
spelling bee contestant

Links:

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