Alumnae "Big Sister" Meeting
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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,
Everlyn Speaks About Achieving Academic Goals
Nancy Graduating from Law School
Rose (One of MGEF's First Students) Then and Now
Ruth Accepting Award for Best Performance