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Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya

by Maasai Girls Education Fund
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Empower Maasai Girls in Kenya
Alumnae "Big Sister" Meeting
Alumnae "Big Sister" Meeting

Hello Everyone,

It has been almost two decades since Barbara Lee Shaw, MGEF’s Founder, met little Ntanin in a very remote rural area of Kenya.  That chance encounter became the spark that ignited a now flourishing MGEF.  At MGEF’s Annual Mentoring Workshop this year, Barbara would have been overwhelmed with pride as she saw her vision for her beloved Maasai girls coming true in the lives of the more than 100 MGEF Workshop participants. Indeed, MGEF has much to celebrate in 2018!

Celebrations

December is a time of celebration in Kenya, and not only because of the holidays.  For MGEF’s record 131 scholarship students, December marks the end of another successful year in school, an important milestone toward reaching their dreams.  In 2018, 21 of our students graduated and started a new and exciting chapter in their lives, whether it be entering secondary school, enrolling in a post-secondary program, or graduating from a university and joining the workforce.  This December, we honor nine primary, four secondary and eight post-secondary scholars for their graduations.  The newly graduated post-secondary students will be welcomed into the ranks of their 65 MGEF alumnae sisters and become an ongoing inspiration for our younger students and, more broadly, girls in their villages and communities.

Paying It Forward

The Annual Mentoring Workshop is a two-day event for MGEF Scholars held at the end of the school year before students return home for a month-long school break.  The workshop addressescultural barriers and social customs that prevent Maasai girls from getting an education, including the harmful effects of early marriage, teen pregnancy and female genital cutting (FGC).  Such mentoring is critical because students who are home for an extended period face unwanted sexual advances and significant pressures from peers and family to undergo FGC, marry and have children. 

With your help and the determination of our growing alumnae community, MGEF has enabled educated Maasai women to pay it forward for the benefit of others.  This year, for the first time, MGEF’s Annual Mentoring Workshop was facilitated entirely by our own alumnae and post-secondary school Scholars. These young women took it upon themselves to inspire and educate their younger peers.  When MGEF began almost 20 years ago, these young women could have never imagined themselves becoming educated and reaching this once unobtainable dream.  

MGEF’s Mentoring Workshop

The lineup of speakers at the Annual Mentoring Workshop was a showcase of MGEF’s accomplished alumnae and an inspiration to every young participant.  

Evelyn

The Workshop’s first speaker was Evelyn, who became an MGEF scholarship recipient her first year of high school and earned a Degree in Secondary Educationin 2012. She has been teaching secondary school since 2013 in Kajiado County.  Evelyn is actively involved in MGEF’s alumnae group, running their Facebook alumnae page, “The Vision of A Maasai Woman,” and organizing charity work such as visiting orphanages and distributing sanitary pads.  Evelyn’s presentation focused on how MGEF’s younger Scholars can achieve their goals by concentrating on academic performance and setting realistic targets for themselves along the way.  She encouraged all the girls to not lose sight of their goals even in the face of the challenges they all know and share, and she provided practical tactics for staying the course.  

Nancy

The Scholars then heard from Nancy, who started as an MGEF scholar in the 3rdgrade in 2003 and earned her Law Degree in 2018.She has just been accepted into Kenya School of Law’s 12-month program and internship, which will allow her to practice law in Kenya.  She plans to return to her community and advocate for Maasai women. As part of the Mentoring Workshop, Nancy taught the participants about their rights to an education, health and well-being and shared valuable insights about who to speak to if their rights were being violated.  She then broke the students up into groups and gave them each assignments to create skits illustrating problems they face in their culture and how the law can help. The students’ role-playing addressed head-on many different challenges they have experienced themselves or witnessed, such as FGC, being removed from school, forced marriage, and violence against women, girls and children.  

Abigael

The first day ended on a high note with Abigael, who became an MGEF scholar in her 6thgrade in 2006 and in 2016 earned a Degree in Agricultural Science and Natural Resource ManagementfromEARTH University in Costa Rica. Abigael now works for a nonprofit in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, and her presentation focused on the qualities that help make a leader effective and inspiring, such as firmness, fairness, honesty and confidence.  She then divided the students into four groups, each of which chose a leader.  The leaders then helped the groups quickly put together and perform role-playing skits displaying examples of good and bad bosses.  The results were clever and instructive for all involved. 

Catherine

Day 2 of the Workshop began with Catherine, who became an MGEF scholar in 2003 and graduated in 2015 with a Degree in Nutrition.  Catherine now works as a nutrition officer at the Neighbors Initiative Alliance, a local nonprofit in Kajiado, Kenya. Catherine spoke about the female reproductive system, healthy personal hygiene, and addressed practical issues such as how to use sanitary napkins, and how best to get through menstrual cramps. Catherine’s presentation spurred many important questions and addressed tradionally culturally difficult subjects, including the health hazards of FGC .

Dr. Gloria

The next speaker, Dr. Gloria Mumeita, provided more in-depth information about women’s health, including FGC.  Gloria began her journey with MGEF in the 10thgrade and in 2016 became MGEF’s first Medical Doctorwhen she graduated from the University of Nairobi School of Medicine. Dr. Gloria has just finished her internship at the Kajiado District Hospital.  Her riveting presentation provided a very detailed explanation of the anatomy of female reproductive organs--a traditionally taboo subject in Maasai culture--and how FGC negatively affects a woman throughout her life.   

Valerie

The final day of the Workshop ended with Valerie, who started with MGEF in the 9thgrade and just earned her Degree in Business in December 2018.  Valerie discussed choosing a career path, a topic of much interest and great importance to secondary students. She encouraged the MGEF students to think about their interests and best academic subjects and then to explore professions consistent with their analysis. It was reassuring to the students to hear her first-hand account of finding her way to studying and doing what she loves. Although the MGEF-Kajiado staff had helped Valerie immensely in choosing a post-secondary school and degree program, Valerie’s presentation also recognized and embodied the value of having an older Maasai peer stand before younger students and help them address their future plans—something not available years ago to her as one of MGEF’s pioneers. But today Valerie stands tall at the MGEF Mentoring Workshop as one of many alumnae able to inspire and help guide her younger Maasai sisters.   

After the Workshop, all attending alumnae and current post-secondary students met to discuss creating a “Big-Sister Program” for MGEF’s younger students. These educated MGEF women understand first-hand the benefits of mentoring young students, helping them overcome struggles, and sharing in celebrations of their successes. Led by alumna Evelyn, the group decided that they would start this program in January 2019.  This is what paying-it-forward looks like!

Annual Parent Meeting 2018

Following the Mentoring Workshop, MGEF held its Annual Parent meeting, a well-attended and heart-warming event for all MGEF students and their families.  Awards for the best academic performance and greatest improvement in school were given out, and special honors were given to each of MGEF’s new graduates for their successes. In many cases the students’ parents joined the awardees on stage to accept their honors, bearing huge smiles of pride for their daughters. As part of the ceremony, a local female chief was invited to speak, and, strongly emphasized to all the parents and attendees the importance of educating girls, all while noting that continuing vigilance and increasing commitment to girls’ education is still much needed in the Maasai community.

It was truly moving to hear her strong encouragement, witness the community dedication and support for girls’ education, and to see in attendance among the more than 100 MGEF scholars at the Workshop the first 3 girls to receive scholarships from the Maasai Girls Education Fund back in 1999—Ntanin, Sempeyo and Leah. They were asked to stand for all to recognize—3 pioneer scholars who in 1999 were alone, but who now have a sisterhood of more than 210 educated Maasai women and girls MGEF has sent to school in the almost 20 years since our founding

Your support is the reason that MGEF and our scholars have been so successful. Evelyn, Nancy, Abigael, Catherine, Gloria and Valerie—are just a few among a growing many—are now educated and able to pay their education and your investment forward by inspiring, mentoring and advocating for their younger MGEF sisters and all girls in the Maasai community.  

With much gratitude, 

Heather McKay

Everlyn Speaks About Achieving Academic Goals
Everlyn Speaks About Achieving Academic Goals
Nancy Graduating from Law School
Nancy Graduating from Law School
Rose (One of MGEF's First Students) Then and Now
Rose (One of MGEF's First Students) Then and Now
Ruth Accepting Award for Best Performance
Ruth Accepting Award for Best Performance
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Hello Friends,

As always, it is a busy fall at the Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF), with 131 students active the last term of the 2018 school year.  We have 50 primary, 35 secondary and 40 post-secondary scholarship recipients, with six more pending acceptance to post-secondary institutions.  Just this September, MGEF had an unprecedented eight new students start colleges and universities. 

I thought it would be interesting to share with you the stories of three MGEF scholars in different stages of their education: Valerie, who is about to graduate in December with a Degree in Business; Florence, who is a new MGEF scholar in secondary school; and Regina, who is a primary school student who has been with MGEF since the beginning of her education eight years ago.  All three are amazing young women whose education and courage will help break the cycle of poverty, change traditional Maasai attitudes towards girls and women, and counter the still persistent practices of female genital cutting (FGC) and early marriage in the Maasai community in Kajiado County, Kenya.  

Valerie

Valerie has been an MGEF scholar since 2011 when she started Form 1.  She is an excellent and ambitious student who will graduate this December with a Degree in Business.  Valerie and her sister had a rough start as children.  Their father neglected the little girls, and even had their mother sent to jail and the girls to an orphanage to avoid the responsibility of supporting his family.  A neighbor helped Valerie’s mother get released from jail, upon which she immediately set out to find and reclaim her two little girls.  With the assistance of the Department of Children’s Services in Nairobi, they were eventually found and released to their mother. With their father still denying his responsibility, Valerie’s mother and the two little girls were on their own.  Valerie’s mother washed clothes and made a meager living.  She was able to send the girls to public primary school because there were no school fees, but she struggled to pay for their uniforms, shoes and supplies.  Once Valerie was in secondary school, however, her mother was no longer able to pay for her education, so her mother came to MGEF for assistance.  Since joining MGEF, Valerie has been a very impressive student in both secondary and post-secondary school.  She has consistently stellar reviews from her internships, and is very proud of her accomplishments. MGEF is also very proud of her!  This December Valerie will join the ranks of the many MGEF alumnae who, with hard work and often with the help of a very determined and strong mother, have overcome enormous obstacles to obtain their dreams of an education.   

Florence

When I am in Kenya, I often meet girls who come to the office to fill out applications for scholarships.  Almost all of the applicants tug at my heart, which in June 2018 was the case with a girl named Florence. Florence comes from a very large family; her father has five wives and 35 children.  Because Florence’s mother was not favored by her husband, Florence was not well liked by her father either.  Although she and her half-sister both did very well in primary school and had been accepted to good secondary schools, her father preferred her half sister and would only pay her school fees—not Florence’s.  He further began arrangements for Florence to marry a much older man.  Having learned of this, the local chief—one of a growing number of female chiefs in the Maasai community—arrived literally during the marriage negotiation to rescue Florence from impending forced marriage. Florence was brought to the chief’s house, where rescued girls often find temporary refuge. However, after several months, the chief was desperate to find a scholarship for her as her house was overfull with rescued girls.  Having heard of MGEF, the chief brought Florence to the MGEF Kajiado office, and Florence was accepted into our Scholarship Program. Florence’s story is one that reminds us that the need for our support is sometimes less financial than it is cultural. Florence has now started secondary school, and she is flourishing.

Regina

Before becoming an MGEF scholar in 2010, Regina’s fate was to be that of a typical young Maasai girl in Kenya—FGC and early marriage instead of an education.  Born to a polygamist father with two wives and 12 children, she and her family were very much steeped in old cultural traditions. Her father did not believe in educating girls, and Regina was never allowed to attend school at all.  He saw his daughters as a source of wealth through the dowry of livestock that they would bring.  

Regina was a very ambitious child, who very much wanted to go to school, and she ran away several times because she wanted an education.  Finally, her father threatened to throw both her and her mother out if she ran away again. Further, her mother learned that he also planned to marry Regina off to a man who had already married one of her older stepsisters. The stepsister had escaped that marriage, and Regina was being offered in her stead to repay the dowry her father had already received from the man for the older sister. On December 9, 2009, just before Regina was to be circumcised over the Christmas holiday and married off, Regina’s mother lied to her husband, telling him Regina was ill and must be taken to the doctor. Instead she brought her to the MGEF Kajiado office and filled out a scholarship application. 

In the office Regina’s mother told Regina’s story, and MGEF immediately accepted her. She started Class 1 that January of 2010.  Regina, now 20, is in Class 8, and is a real joy, with an always-ready flash of a smile. When I visited her mother at her boma, I took photographs to take back to Regina, who was overwhelmed to see pictures of her mother.  The resemblance between Regina and her mother is not only physical. They share a warmth, an open heart and that quick smile, too.  Once again, a girl’s determination, hard work and desire for an education was supported by the courage of a determined, strong mother. Regina is reaching her dreams.

The Maasai Culture 

The Maasai are an incredible tribe of people—gentle, polite, patient. Many of their traditions are colorful and beautiful, but there are a few, such as early marriage and FGC, that not only endanger the life of a girl, but also perpetuate the cycle of poverty. With the world around them changing rapidly, their way of life is threatened more now than ever.  Their survival depends on education of both boys and girls.  MGEF has seen much progress in the almost two decades since our founder Barbara Shaw met the first little Maasai girl who changed both of their lives, but forced marriage is still one of the most common obstacles to a Maasai girl’s education and future.  Many fathers and brothers do not want to spend any of their money on educating girls. This is particularly true if the girl is a daughter of a lower level wife and not favored by the father or brother who own or stand to inherit the family’s land and animals.  To these men, the size of their herd is a show of wealth and standing in the community.  Selling off a few cows to educate a girl is too often outweighed by their appearance of prosperity. 

Our alumnae and scholarship students are by far the best and most important advocates for education there is.  When they return home as nurses, teachers, lawyers and doctors and help their communities and families, they are living proof of the power of education to effect positive change.  Even before they receive their degrees, just the fact of being literate renders them invaluable, as they are often the only members of their families that can read.

It is through your support that we are able to give these determined and courageous Maasai girls a chance to grow and achieve their dreams, which in turn helps their entire community survive in a far different world than their ancestors or even their parents knew. Thank you for your support.

With gratitude,

Heather McKay

MGEF Scholar Florence
MGEF Scholar Florence
MGEF Scholar Regina
MGEF Scholar Regina
MGEF Scholar Regina's Mother
MGEF Scholar Regina's Mother
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Boma (home) of MGEF Scholarship student Regina
Boma (home) of MGEF Scholarship student Regina

Dear friends,

I have just returned from a month long trip to Kenya.  It was an eventful and productive visit, checking in on ours students and their family bomas, meeting with local chiefs and teachers and working with the staff at our MGEF-Kajiado office.

Scholarship Program

MGEF added 16 new Scholars in 2018, 13 primary and three secondary students.  All of these girls’ families were unable to pay for school costs.  Esther is an example of just one Maasai girl who is desperate for an education.  I met Esther during my trip while visiting A.I.C. Girls Primary Boarding School, where 16 of MGEF’s scholarship students are enrolled.  During the visit, the head teacher asked me to meet 10-year old Esther who she learned about from her neighbor, Esther’s mother.  The head teacher explained that her neighbor is the fourth wife of a man who has 28 children and whose family had fallen on very hard times due to the drought.  They once had a thriving herd of cows and goats, but had to sell them out of necessity or lost them due to starvation.  Esther’s mother brought her to the head teacher’s school and said “please take my daughter, make her your maid or send her to school, but if she comes home she will starve.”   This little girl had a twinkle in her eyes and is very smart, so the head teacher accepted her in school.  Without some form of payment though, Esther was facing imminent expulsion from the school.  Esther is now a new MGEF scholarship student.

As of July 2018, MGEF has 137 scholarship students - 51 primary, 36 secondary and 50 enrolled and pending post-secondary students.  We commit to each Scholar until she has the knowledge to enter the workforce in Kenya.  We ensure that the girls are enrolled in appropriate schools, and help secondary school graduates choose career paths, identify post-secondary schools and prepare their applications, all new and different challenges for these young women.  It was a pleasure working with the MGEF-Kajiado staff, including mentoring MGEF’s Scholars.  For example, Apophia, a December 2017 secondary school graduate, came to the office for advice on her next steps.  She proposed taking a course to learn Chinese in six months believing that being a translator would earn her a good living.  The Chinese are very active in Kenya, as they are constructing the railroad from Mombasa to Nairobi and much of the roads and buildings throughout the area. MGEF-Kajiado staff and I talked through her reasoning for wanting to study Chinese, after which she confided that she was concerned because she did not have a clear plan for her future. The discussion then moved on to her academic strengths and true interests, leading her to decide to study finance and business.  Ms. Mereyian, MGEF-Kajiado’s Program Director, gave Apophia brochures of related post-secondary school programs from the office resource library and assured her that together they would help her find and apply to the right school.  Apophia returned the next day full of excitement for her future and spent the morning reviewing finance and business programs with Ms. Mereyian.     

During my trip I met with as many of MGEF’s post-secondary school students as was possible.  I asked each one of them, “Do you see a shift in the attitudes towards girls’ education in your village and community?”  Every one said yes, that their communities are finally beginning to realize they cannot survive solely in their traditional way of life and must educate themselves.  They noted, however, that many old traditions were still ingrained in more remote Maasai areas.  Each woman felt that her education and that of fellow MGEF students have strongly helped change attitudes.  In their home villages, they are now given respect, which is new, but they also face much pressure to get a good job and help support their families.  Their pride in their education is somewhat tempered by the tough job market in Kenya.  Fortunately, many of our upcoming graduates have interned with organizations and companies where they expect to be hired after graduation.   

MGEF’s alumnae continue to impress us.  During my June trip, I awoke one morning in Kajiado with an intense earache. Ms. Ntayia, MGEF-Kajiado Director, recommended an approach they now use when medical issues arise -- call MGEF alumna, Doctor Gloria.  What a proud and amazing feeling it was to have this young confident doctor, who originally came from a small boma and only dreamed of being a doctor, capably diagnose my ear infection and promptly prescribe medicine to fix the problem.     

As doctors, nurses, teachers and business women, our alumnae have become the new warriors of the Maasai, helping their families and communities, and inspiring young girls to follow their dreams.  Each year, our alumnae come to the Mentoring Workshop to share their experiences and encourage the younger MGEF students.  One post-secondary student, Valerie, who will be graduating with a Degree in Business this fall, has volunteered to organize a group of alumnae who will speak about their different careers and offer mentorship to their MGEF sisters interested in their professions.  Valerie said choosing a course of post-secondary study was one of the greatest challenges during her last year of secondary school and she would thus like to be very involved in helping her fellow MGEF sisters in this area. 

Life Skills Workshops (LSWs)

During the first half of 2018, MGEF conducted one LSW that was funded by the Saina Hope Foundation, an NGO from the Netherlands that had heard of MGEF from local Maasai leaders and other NGOs in the area.  The Dutch visitors met with MGEF-Kajiado staff to learn about our LSW program and then requested that we conduct an LSW workshop at the Saina Primary School in the Town of Kajiado which they support.  They were so eager to learn from us that they arranged to personally attend the workshop. The workshop, conducted in May 2018, was very well attended with 103 children participants, most of whom are from the poorest slum areas around Kajiado.  Since all of the school staff wanted to participate, they actually had to hold the workshop on a Saturday, which is very unusual.  The main barriers to education faced by these students, both boys and girls, that were identified during the workshop were peer pressure, negative influences from their environment such as crime and drug abuse, lack of parental support and poverty.

Women’s Business Training (WBT)

This year we followed up on the progress of two WBT Workshops that were conducted in 2017 (Cohorts 9 and 10).  MGEF had refined the approach for our WBT Workshops to mitigate challenges experienced and incorporate participant feedback over the past few years.  This included creating larger teams of women to work collectively on designing and running their businesses.  One benefit of the larger team size was that the women were now eligible to apply for Kenyan government grants to expand their businesses. The follow up showed that the participants of both cohorts are still working in their businesses.  And Cohort 10 is doing so well that in June 2018, with the help of Ms. Mereyian, the participants submitted a proposal for two different government projects.  One project seeks funding for a group of 15 Maasai women to run a sheep and goat rearing business. The other grant was submitted for an Affirmative Action project involving 30 Maasai women to run a business rearing chickens and dairy farming.   Ms. Mereyian is optimistic about their chances of being awarded at least one of the grants. 

MGEF received a small grant for WBT Cohort 4 (from Ilbissil). This group of women participated in a WBT workshop in 2014.  In 2016, while on a trip to Kenya, the donors visited the group on market day. Impressed with the success and drive of these business women, they provided a grant in December 2017 to help the women expand their businesses.  The women then developed a business plan for a new business, with input and advice from the MGEF-Kajiado office.  They proposed buying a large tent to rent for functions such as weddings and graduations.  Tent rental is very popular because there are few affordable event facilities in their area.  One of the team members has donated land to store the tent, and the group, as a collective, have saved enough money from their ongoing businesses to build a storage shed.  The grant will be used to purchase the tent once the storage shed has been built.  Five years ago, these women would never have dreamt they would be in the position to open this new business.  

To watch young frightened and timid girls overcome the obstacles put In front of them and become confident educated young women is an amazing experience.  It is your support that makes this all possible.

With gratitude

Heather McKay

Apophia, MGEF post-secondary Scholarship student
Apophia, MGEF post-secondary Scholarship student
Valerie, post-secondary MGEF Scholarship student
Valerie, post-secondary MGEF Scholarship student
Esther, new MGEF scholarship student
Esther, new MGEF scholarship student
MGEF ED visits with MGEF students mother
MGEF ED visits with MGEF students mother
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Josephine's Family Hut
Josephine's Family Hut

Dear Friends,

MGEF started out the new school year this January 2018 with 11 new Scholarship Program students.  This brings our roster up to 132 active students -- 47 primary, 34 secondary, 33 post-secondary and 18 pending post–secondary.  Our pending post-secondary students typically attend computer classes after graduating secondary school as they apply to different universities, colleges or technical schools for acceptance in the summer or fall.  

Primary and secondary schools in Kenya take a two-week break in early April between Terms one and two.  The MGEF-Kajiado Director, Lucy, and Program Director, Margaret, took this opportunity to visit many of our Scholars and their families at their homes.  Here is a glimpse into the lives of three MGEF primary school scholarship students whose families were visited.

Lucy

Lucy’s story begins in September 2017 at the MGEF-Kajiado office in Kajiado, Kenya, while I was on a site visit there.  Her mother came into the office in the morning and submitted an application that she had filled out for her youngest daughter, Lucy.  She then remained sitting quietly in the corner of the office for some time, accepting candy that I had brought for the staff and students.  Finally, a staff member asked why she was still there. We learned that she had no money for transportation home.  The staff quickly gave her the small amount she needed to travel home from the cash box and informed her that Lucy was accepted, which rendered her speechless with tears streaming down her face.    

Lucy is a 16-year old girl, the youngest in a family of three boys and four girls.  Her three older sisters have either had no or scarce education due to poverty, leaving Lucy’s mother desperate to create a different life for her youngest. 

When Lucy goes home from boarding school, she returns to her traditional Maasai life.  Her parents are pastoralists, but due to the recurrent drought, the family now owns just two cows and four goats.  The family lives in a small hut with one room closed off by a metal sheet where her eldest sister, who escaped her husband due to unsafe treatment, now lives with her three small children.  Lucy’s father is elderly and sick but her determined mother sells charcoal every day and manages to put food on the table.  

Since Lucy secured a scholarship from MGEF, the family’s hope for a brighter future has been revived. Her mom smiles as she says proudly, “Life is hard right now, but I am happy that my daughter is able to go to school.  She will get a good job and support our family.”

The MGEF-Kajiado staff was especially encouraged by the change in attitude of Lucy’s father, which was completely different not too long ago.   He is very happy she is in school and gives her advice to work hard and stay away from the boys in the village.  He regrets that he was not able to educate his other daughters who were all married at an early age. He says with remorse, “If only I took them to school, their lives would have been better than what they have now.”

Josephine 

Josephine is a 13-year old girl who comes from a very large family.  Her father, who had six wives and 38 children (19 girls and 19 boys), passed away due to illness leaving the poverty-stricken family with his medical bills. All 18 of Josephine’s sisters have been married off to older men.  Only one enrolled in primary school but she too was married off in 2016.  Josephine is determined to reach her dream of an education.  

Josephine’s large family lives in a boma with four mud huts and one communal structure made of stone and other materials.  Their previous home did not have a roof.  They felt it was wonderful to look up at the stars at night.  But after years of dealing with water during the rainy season, they now appreciate having a roof over their heads.

Her mother is extremely grateful for MGEF’s support of her daughter’s education.  She is looking forward to seeing her daughter’s success in school with a lot of hope and admiration.  She says,“She is already different from the other girls in the village.  She is smart and assists me a lot.” And adds,“Education is very important and it’s the only way.”

Josephine’s first term in school was a little rocky.   She tried to run away from school and did not want to return for her second term.  MGEF-Kajiado staff, who mentor and closely track each scholarship student, quickly stepped in to evaluate the situation.  It was discovered that she was homesick, so she was promptly switched to a different boarding school much closer to her home where her mother can come visit her every weekend.  Josephine is now doing great at school, quick to flash her mischievous smile and show her confidence.  She has made good friends with other MGEF students and is eager to learn.  

Caroline 

Caroline comes from a single parent family comprised of her mother, two boys and three girls. They live on the outskirts of a small town near the southern Kenya border. The family lives in a two-room concrete home and struggles desperately to survive.  Caroline’s mother has AIDS and was shunned by her husband, leaving her and the children to survive on their own.  Caroline’s mother sells Maasai beaded jewelry to tourists but her sales dropped to almost nothing due to political unrest during the 2017 presidential election which negatively impacted tourism.  Now she has become too sickly to work at all.

Yet the family is very optimistic about Caroline’s scholarship with MGEF which she began receiving in 2015.  Caroline is a very smart girl.  In 2017, she won “Best Overall Performance” at MGEF’s 2017 Annual Parent Meeting, having earned an A+ average (98%) for the year.  She is exceptionally serious about her studies and works very hard.  

Caroline’s mother wants a better life for her daughter and says,“I am very happy that she is in school now. I don’t want her to have a hard life like her two sisters or being at risk of dropping out of school.”

Caroline’s two sisters dropped out of primary school due to lack of school fees.  Because of the family’s financial problems, the two girls reluctantly opted to get married and now are facing difficult times of their own.  The elder sister has two daughters and the other has one daughter currently staying with Caroline’s mother.  Caroline often stays at school during holidays to avoid the hard life she is exposed to at home and also to not burden her family with another mouth to feed. 

Caroline’s sisters are so proud of her also.  One asked the visiting MGEF-Kajiado staff to give her a special message.  “I am happy that my sister is getting an education, I know she will be able to get a good job and help to support my mother. Tell her to work hard and don’t let those who are supporting her down.  Let her know that we miss her.”  

Summary

Lucy, Josephine and Caroline are just three of the 132 MGEF scholarship students who provide hope for the future of their families, the Maasai community and the education of women.  They will add to the growing generation of educated Maasai women, joining MGEF’s 61 alumni, 51 of whom have graduated from post-secondary institutions.  Our well-educated alumni return to their communities as teachers, nurses, lawyers and even doctors.  They are an inspiration to their younger sisters and other girls in their villages.  They are helping change traditional Maasai beliefs about the education of girls and women, which in turn helps to break the cycle of poverty prevalent in Maasai communities. 

Thank you for the support that allows girls like Lucy, Josephine and Caroline to attend school.  Each girl we keep in school will someday join the growing army of empowered and educated Maasai women.  

Lucy and Her Mom
Lucy and Her Mom
MGEF Staff Visit Lucy's Home
MGEF Staff Visit Lucy's Home
Josephine at Home
Josephine at Home
Caroline's Mother
Caroline's Mother
Caroline at School
Caroline at School
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WBT Workshop Maasai Woman in her Hair Salon
WBT Workshop Maasai Woman in her Hair Salon

Dear Friends,

The Maasai Girls Education Fund has had another incredible year! Here are just a few highlights of what your support has made possible in 2017. 


MGEF Scholarship Program:  MGEF sent 125 Maasai girls to school this year, and we celebrated an especially high graduation rate of 10 primary, 9 secondary and 2 post-secondary successful graduates!  MGEF scholar Caroline was admitted to medical school, and our first doctor, "Dr. Gloria” became the first female Maasai physician to practice medicine in the town of Kajiado. Two new university graduates have joined an ever-growing group of vocal, active MGEF alumnae, with degrees in Education and Business. And one exceptional but still unsponsored student, Susan, has just been accepted to the University of Nairobi Bachelor of Science Program in Agriculture. 

MGEF Life Skills Workshops: MGEF held 14 Life Skills Workshops (LSWs) for boys and girls in 2017, and another eight for elders and chiefs, reaching more than 13,000 Maasai to date in remote areas of Kenya where the Maasai culture is deeply embedded in old traditions. LSWs address the social customs and cultural beliefs that prevent Maasai girls from getting an education, and provide detailed information to help boys and girls make better life decisions that will reduce early marriage, teen pregnancy, the practice of female genital cutting and the spread of HIV. These workshops not only increase enrollment and success rates of Maasai girls in school, they allow us to glean valuable information so that we can debunk myths meant to control girls' behavior and prevent them from pursuing an education. In a workshop in Magadi, for example, the girls revealed that they had been taught that they would be become seriously ill if they did not engage in sexual activity.

The Lifeskills Workshops also deepen MGEF's presence in the community, enhance ongoing family and community support for education, and allow us to meet new determined young girls who are desperate for the opportunity to go to school. One young Maasai girl we met, for example, was attending Class 8 (primary school’s highest grade) for the third year in a row. She loves school and is ready to move on to secondary school, but simply does not have the financial means to attend the higher, costlier grade. This girl deserves a scholarship from MGEF! But we need new sponsors so that we can add girls like her to the MGEF Scholarship Program.  

MGEF Women's Business Training: MGEF conducted our tenth round of Women’s Business Training (WBT) Workshops this year. These workshops help rural Maasai women with little or no education start and sustain small businesses and become self-sufficient. We teach them how to develop viable business plans and provide them seed money to start up their ventures.  Their progress is monitored through a series of follow-up meetings.  Our Womens Business Training program has launched 300 women-owned businesses since 2010 and 279 are still going strong – a 93% success rate!

Despite this being a difficult year in Kenya, with drought, doctors’ and nurses’ strikes, and post-election political tensions, our students continue to persevere, and our workshops continue to reach those most in need. To send a girl to school, to start an illiterate woman in her own business, or to save a girl from the fate of early marriage and a life of physical labor is worth every dime and every hour MGEF has committed. These educated girls and empowered women are becoming strong female leaders of the Maasai tribe, impacting their community and all of Kenya. MGEF is proud of our accomplishments this past year. We have created a model that is working -- a model that integrates the Maasai community in full partnership. None of this would be possible without the dedication of Maasai women and men in Kenya. Nor would it be possible without the generous support of our many volunteers and donors. 

With gratitude and best wishes for the new year,

LSW Participants in Magadi
LSW Participants in Magadi
Eunice Completes Her First Year as a MGEF Scholar
Eunice Completes Her First Year as a MGEF Scholar
MGEF Students at School Have Become Family
MGEF Students at School Have Become Family
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Organization Information

Maasai Girls Education Fund

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Heather McKay
Executive Director
Washington, DC United States
$47,632 raised of $95,000 goal
 
400 donations
$47,368 to go
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Pay Bill: 891300
Account: GG9231

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