Maasai Girls Education Fund

The Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF) is a 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in the District of Columbia. We were founded in 2000 to increase the literacy, health, and economic well-being of Maasai women in Kenya. MGEF's goals are to increase enrollment of Maasai girls in Kenya, reduce the dropout rate, and support every student until they have the knowledge and skills to enter the workforce in Kenya. Our work involves a long-term commitment to each of our students. Our success is measured by how many scholarship students complete their education and are prepared for a job in Kenya. The Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF) works in Kenya's Kajiado, Loitokitok, and Ngong Distri...
Dec 22, 2015

End of Year Update

Mentoring Workshop December 2015
Mentoring Workshop December 2015

Dear Friends,

This news update finds me, Heather McKay Executive Director the Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF), in Kajiado, Kenya attending the 2015 Mentoring Workshop and Annual Graduation Banquet. The Mentoring Workshop is a two day event held once a year in December at the end of the school year, just before girls return home for a month break from classes. It was started in 2010 to connect our adolescent scholarship students with more mature MGEF students and graduates in supportive, educational environment where the girls share their personal stories, their challenges, and where the younger girls receive support and encouragement to remain enrolled in school and return to classes after the school break. The annual Mentoring Workshop, which is attended by all MGEF scholars who are past puberty, is deliberately scheduled to precede the school break in December and January, a time when girls are at home in their villages and therefore most susceptible to cultural pressures, most risk of Female Genetial Cutting (FGC), being married off and of becoming pregnant.

This school break period is also a time when the girls themselves can be especially conflicted about choosing an education over living the traditional Maasai life. The pressure to undergo circumcision and get married, and even to have unprotected sex, can be overwhelming to girls at this stage. They are actually sometimes offered money for sex, and they often do not even yet know how pregnancy happens. In the Mentoring Workshop, MGEF facilitators, guest speakers and alumni provide professional advice as well as health and life skills education, discussing social barriers to academic success such as early marriage and pregnancy, self-esteem, contraceptives, and the dangers of HIV and FGC. The goal is to empower the students with information, and thereby help them make smart choices in support of their education.

This year Mentoring workshop was well attended with 58 students attending and 2 of MGEF alumnae. There were 24 primary, 27 secondary and 7 post secondary girls who attended the workshop. The first day Evelyn Naserian, one of MGEF alumna who is now a local secondary teacher, started the morning talking to the girls about how to not get discouraged and to make their goals in school and in life simple and attainable, do your best and try to improve each day. She spoke about how they can improve their grades one step at a time. If you are receiving a D this semester than strive for a C the next grade period.   Keep a good attitude and be confident and believe in yourself.   Pick a career but have a back up one in case your grades do not allow for your first choice. There was singing and fun games between lectures that helped the girls relax, get to know each other and bond.

The second day, Lucy Resiato, who has been a teacher throughout the Kajiado area for over 20 years, took over with the difficult and sensitive job of speaking very frankly about Female Genital Cutting (FGC). It is of great importance that the girls know all that can go wrong right after the procedure and throughout the rest of their lives such as infection, painful intercourse, and often a very painful delivery. She told the girls of the warning signs that their ceremony might be in the near future with plans being made and that they must run to a rescue center immediately. They must not believe the myth, that they have been told since they were a small child, which falsely informs them that they will be better off after having this procedure. They are told, by their community, if they do not undergo this very painful and dangerous procedure no one will marry them and if they do get pregnant the child will bring bad luck unless they are circumcised just weeks before giving birth, which will make the delivery of the child almost unbearably painful. Then the students were shown a movie to which was very explicit. As I looked around the room and saw their faces of shock and sometimes grief, I felt heart broken for those who had already experienced this tragedy. At the end of the movie, Lucy Ntayia, the director of MGEF Kajiado, had a conversation for those who had already experienced this horrific tradition, assuring them that it does not mean your life is over and that you must not feel shame and not let it stop you from your dreams.

The last guest speaker was Sation Parmuat who is Miss Tourism of Kajiado. She received her degree in Tourism and Management only 2 years ago. She was very inspirational to the girls as she spoke of her ability to support herself and to travel. The girls were mesmerized and come away believing that they too could achieve their dreams with hard work and determination.

Annual Meeting, which was the day after the Mentoring Workshops, was well attended with many parents and family members coming with very proud smiles on their faces. The girls did skits and sang traditional Maasai songs for the parents. Various parents and students spoke of the good progress and the goals still left to achieve. We also celebrated the graduation of two primary, eight secondary and two post secondary MGEF students. Each graduate stood and was recognized by all with a round of applause and cheers of congratulations. The parents were beaming with pride.

In October, Gloria Mumeita, MGEF first medical student, boarded an airplane for the first time to come to America for eight weeks of shadowing doctors at Suburban Hospital and the National Institutes of Health. The trip was organized and financed by Tracey Pyles, an emergency physician at Suburban, and president of MGEF.

The 23-year-old, who grew up in a hut made of dirt and sticks in the Kajiado District of Kenya, is now in her fifth and final year of medical school at the University of Nairobi. She’s on her way to becoming the third Maasai woman doctor ever.  “When I look back I can’t believe I got to medical school,” she says.

Mumeita is a role model for other Maasai girls and their families. As more Maasai girls become educated, their fathers are learning that daughters with jobs provide more financial support to their families than a one-time marriage dowry of five cows.   She is a local hero and we here at MGEF are so proud and impressed with her unwavering determination to reach her dream of becoming a doctor and returning to her village to help the people in her community.

Thank you all for your support. Without your help our mission would not be possible and the wonderful minds of Gloria and the other girls would never reach their potential. That would be such a loss for not only the Maasai Community but for the world.

With much gratitude

Heather McKay

Executive Director

Annual Meeting December 2015
Annual Meeting December 2015
Gloria Mumeita and MGEF President Dr Tracey Pyles
Gloria Mumeita and MGEF President Dr Tracey Pyles
Sep 14, 2015

2015 Fall Update

MGEF visits Kenya MGEF Kajiado staff and board
MGEF visits Kenya MGEF Kajiado staff and board

Dear Friends,

 

As mentioned in the last update, I joined MGEF as the Director of Finance and Programs last April. And what an adventure it has been already! In June, MGEF President, Tracey Pyles, Executive Director, Zara Bott-Goins, Board Member, Jon Griffin, and I visited Kenya and our Kajiado team. It was a great introduction for me, and an inspiring opportunity to witness the commitment of everyone at MGEF, from the U.S. Board to our Kenyan outreach volunteers, and to see first hand what our work and your support have accomplished.

 

To start our journey we attended a scheduled MGEF-Kajiado board meeting where we thanked members for their service, discussed the progress we have made so far this year, and planned future programs and new scholarships for the coming fall. Over the next several weeks, the Kajiado team conducted eight MGEF Life Skills Workshops. These workshops educate not only Maasai girls but also boys about the hardships and health problems resulting from early marriage and FGM. They also cover important life skills lessons. This summer alone MGEF Life Skills Workshops reached over 600 children in the Ngong region of Kajiado, and our fall schedule for upcoming workshops looks just as busy.

 

We also visited many primary and secondary schools during our visit to check on our MGEF scholarship students. It was such a wonderful vision to see the smiles on the faces of these girls, many of whom have already overcome so much on their way to fulfilling their dreams. They are the faces of the future, and their success will have an enormous impact on their communities. And they are succeeding! One of our university students graduates this month with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. Another MGEF student who is studying to be a doctor just completed her 4th year of medical school in Nairobi. In October she will be traveling to the United States for an 8-week medical internship with physicians at the National Institutes of Health and the John’s Hopkins affiliated Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. Two other students who majored in education are now teaching in local Kajiado schools. These are all role models for our younger students and real-life examples of the positive difference MGEF works tirelessly to achieve.

 

Finally, it is both moving and impressive to see the large student and alumnae participation at our August Mentoring Workshop, a forum that fosters strong bonds among MGEF students as they support and encourage each other through hardship, and share and celebrate each others’successes. The growing list of alumnae and their significant accomplishments is powerfully motivating, and our graduates’dedication to helping younger girls remain in school and realize their own potential is among MGEF’s greatest assets. The skilled staff in our Kajiado office also actively support our students through any challenges they may experience at school or at home, and are always available to help them plan and decide their futures.

 

I myself will be attending the next Mentoring Workshop and MGEF Graduation Ceremony in early December, when two MGEF student will complete their primary education, and eight will graduate from secondary school! I am excited to celebrate their achievements with them, and I look forward to sharing the experience with you.

 

Thanks to your generosity and support, the Maasai Girls Education Fund continues to make a real difference and improve the lives of Maasai girls, women, and their communities.

 

With gratitude,

 

Heather Mckay

Director of Finance and Programs, MGEF

Girls Life Skills Workshop In Oltepesi Kenya
Girls Life Skills Workshop In Oltepesi Kenya
Alumnae laugh with MGEF Kajiado staff Member
Alumnae laugh with MGEF Kajiado staff Member
Jun 16, 2015

Summer Update

Enkasiti Life Skills Workshop
Enkasiti Life Skills Workshop

Dear Friends,

We have had an incredibly succesful year so far thanks to your support. Not only do we have 106 scholarship students in school, but we continue to deliver life skills workshops to girls and boys and Women's Business Trainings to women in rural Maasai communitiies. So far this year, 90 new businesses have been created, increasing the income for each participant and also improving the lives of each participant's family. These women are spending this new income on school fees for their children, medical expenses, and other education related expenses. We are looking forward to expanding this impactful program in the coming months and years.

MGEF's Washington, D.C. office has also added a new team member. Heather McKay is the new Director of Finance and Programs. She brings a deep belief in justice and a passion for girls and women's empowerment. She willl be traveling with an MGEF team to Kenya this week to monitor programs, meet with students, work with MGEF-Kajiado staff, and attend workshops. We look forward to sharing stories and pictures upon our return!

MGEF is stronger than ever. Evidence of the impact of each program is apparent with each student graduating and becoming a professional woman, each girl who goes home to her village feeling empowered to stand up for her rights, each woman who feels proud of her ability to care for her children, and each man who sees the value of education in a new light. We could not do this work without your support. Thank you!

Isinya Life Skills Workshop
Isinya Life Skills Workshop

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