When I dreamed of building Kakenya Center for Excellence, I imagined a place where every girl in my village could receive an education, be free of FGM and early marriage, have room to build their own dreams for the future, and become change makers in Kenya. I wanted the next generation of leaders in my village, both girls and boys, to recognize the value of educated girls who can become equal partners in our community and world. My vision was that, as our students became more known and respected in our community, our model for educating all children would spread throughout the region.
Our Health and Leadership Training program began as a response to the high number of families in the region who were seeking spots for their daughters in our boarding school. Though we could only accept a small number into the school, I could not leave the rest behind. I wanted to find a way to reach all girls in the community with information about their rights, FGM, and early marriage as well as leadership and self defense skills. Our training program has allowed us to reach some of these girls by inviting them to our campus for week-long camps twice per year. After we launched the training program in 2011, its reputation spread quickly and demand for participation was more than we could accommodate.
I began to dream bigger. I decided to take our program on the road to schools around the region, allowing us to reach all girls attending those schools. On June 27th and 28th, Kakenya Center for Excellence held our first weekend Health and Leadership Training in a neighboring school. Hosted at Enkilority primary school, 106 girls and 80 boys from five nearby primary schools joined KCE trainers and staff for a two-day training seminar on a variety of topics including self esteem and leadership, FGM and early marriage, and sexuality and adolescence. The first day of training included our inaugural session for 6th and 7th grade boys. Trainers from the Nairobi-based group I'm Worth Defending worked with the boys who attended, stressing the importance that they join with girls to become a new generation of leaders that stands together on the principle of education for all and that protects the rights of children everywhere. Our goal is to reach 1,500 students this year through these monthly weekend training sessions. Plans are already underway for next month's "on the road" training!
Thank you so much for your support as we continue to dream bigger and reach more and more girls (and boys) throughout the Transmara region with critical skills and information. You are making a difference, and we are so grateful that you believe in our mission to change the paradigm for girls’ education in rural Kenya.
It's hard to believe, but KCE's Health and Leadership Training program is now in its third year and has reached over 300 girls, 60% of whom travel from surrounding villages to participate in the camps in-depth health, leadership and experiential activities!
April and May will be especially busy this year! In two short weeks we will be hosting our week-long training on KCE's campus. We are excited to have law students from Strathmore University in Nairobi assisting with some of the leadership and professional development trainings at camp. The law program at Strathmore requires all students to complete 200 hours of community service and we are thrilled to have these young women partnering with us.
In an effort to reach more girls, KCE Health and Leadership trainings will "hit the road" this May by launching weekend programs throughout schools in our district with the goal of reaching 1,000 girls this year!
We look forward to sharing more information with you about our April and May programs and will send a detailed update in June. Thank you for your continued interest and support.
Happy New Year! It has been a wonderful year at Kakenya Center for Excellence, and we are so thankful for the support you have provided over the past year. Your generosity has allowed KCE to host two successful Health and Leadership camps. At our most recent camp, in early December, we had a total of 133 girls in grades 6-8. As in past camps, our good friends from I’m Worth Defending, a Nairobi-based non-profit, came to teach the girls self-defense moves as well as assertiveness, boundary setting, and other skills for keeping themselves safe. Training sessions on subsequent days focused on FGM, sex and sexuality, leadership, HIV/AIDS, and other important health information. The final day of the camp was a Career Day, allowing the girls to explore potential paths to achieving their dreams for the future. For non-KCE girls, this was an unfamiliar exercise that allowed new dreams to take root.
One of the most fulfilling elements of our camps is the relationship that forms between the campers and their high-school aged counselors. These counselors are hand picked from nearby schools and trained as mentors and leaders. At each camp, we give these young women an opportunity to share wisdom and encouragement with the campers. Caroline, one of the counselors who shared at our December camp, had a particularly compelling story. She explained to the campers that she joined high school very late after having finished primary school because her family was reluctant to allow her to continue with her studies. Undeterred from achieving her goal of completing secondary school, she recently finished her final year of high school and took the final exams at the end of 2013. She urged the girls to take their studies seriously. In secondary school, her reputation as a hard worker earned the honor of serving as her class president. Caroline hopes to attend college in the coming years and to study medicine so she can become a doctor. The girls listened attentively with faces of visible admiration.
We are honored and excited to be able to host these training camps. Year after year we see how the girls who attend are transformed. We look forward to three more Health and Leadership training camps in 2014 and hope that you will continue to join with us in our mission of empowering young Maasai girls!
CNN announced its Top 10 Heroes for 2013 and I am extremely honored and humbled to be one of the ten. I cannot even begin to express what this award means to the girls in my community and the issues that we continue to eradicate in our society. Today CNN has elevated the voices of young girls who are forced to undergo female genital cutting and early marriages. These are girls who are yearning for a better future but are denied an education when they are so young. I know because I was one of them.
I am motivated every day by girls like Lynn and Angeline who were orphaned at a tender age of seven and ten, but who now will achieve their dreams because we have given them an opportunity. But there is still much work to be done. 14 million girls are married each year before they are 18 years old and 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital cutting. With your help, and that of people like you, we can put a end to these practices.
CNN is asking the public to select their "Hero of the Year", so I am asking you today to vote for me and the girls, to share this link on your Facebook and Twitter and to ask your family, friends and colleagues to do the same. While it is an honor to be among the top ten, which comes with $50,000 which we will put towards building more classrooms, being named the top winner would be the catalyst for us to help significantly more girls. The visibility that recognition would give to this issue, and the direct investments we could make with the $250,000 prize would ensure that we have transformed more girls into empowered individuals who will each make a difference in our world.
I want to thank CNN for believing in my dream and that of the many girls around the world. And I want to thank you, our supporters, for your continued support. Together we are changing the lives of girls in Kenya in a positive way.
I am grateful for your continual support and very thankful for your vote.
With warm regards,
Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD.
From August 19th through the 24th, Kakenya Center for Excellence hosted its fifth week-long Health and Leadership Training camp at our boarding school in Enoosaen. Along with KCE's 6th and 7th graders, 60 girls from surrounding schools joined us for a week of training, bringing the total number to 120. The campers were trained in female health, self defense, leadership skills and child rights. As always, the week was filled with laughter, new friendships, plenty of singing and dancing, and positive change in the lives of the participants. For girls joining us from other schools in the division, this was the first time they had experienced a supportive girls-only environment, designed to empower them to protect their bodies and minds as they reach the end of their primary school years. The girls enjoyed plenty of games and special activities as well, including a movie night and a night of traditional Maasai storytelling by local grandmothers.
We want to recognize our wonderful trainers, who engage with the girls, encourage them to ask questions, and deliver crucial information about their rights and bodies in fun, interactive ways. Since we began the Health and Leadership Training program, sessions with I'm Worth Defending have been one of the girls' favorite aspects of the camp. This group comes to us from Nairobi and always brings enthusiasm, tons of energy, and a visable passion for their mission of teaching girls to protect themselves from sexual assault. During our August camp, we partnered for the first time with the Center for the Study of Adolescence, also a Nairobi-based nonprofit. CSA ran sessions on sexual and reproductive health for the campers, teaching them to make good choices that promote health and wellbeing.
Camp is one of our favorite times of the year at KCE. Here is what some of the girls had to say at the end of the week when asked if the week had met their expectations:
"Yes, because there was fun and the teachers were honest and loving." -- Seenoi
"Yes, because it has enabled and encouraged me to work hard until I achieve my goals." -- Nasieku
"Yes. I wanted to learn how I can defend myself in certain situations." - Nenkoitoi
"Yes, because we were taught how to be leaders." - Juliet
Thank you for making these experiences possible for girls in rural Kenya!
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