Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya

by Kakenya's Dream
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Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
Leadership Training for Girls in Maasai Kenya
A Linda Dada session in progress
A Linda Dada session in progress

Since starting the second year of our revamped Health and Leadership Training program in May, we have reached over 1,800 participants in 15 schools across Narok County, bringing our total reach to almost 16,000 girls and boys over the past decade. The trainings, which are spread out into a six-month after-school program, teach boys and girls a number of important health and gender issues, including human rights, reproductive health, child marriage, self defense, and public speaking. This year we trained 36 facilitators to teach the curriculum. These facilitators, some of whom are former Health and Leadership Training participants, work hard to desensitize their students on these topics, which are considered taboo in rural communities.

One facilitator, Purity, is excited to see her students embrace the material, saying, “Our first lesson in the curriculum was on puberty and adolescence. Students were so quiet and shy they could not discuss the topic amongst themselves. But by the time we started the second lesson on menstruation and pregnancy, the class was so active. They had so many questions we ended up extending the lesson in order to respond to them all.” Thanks to the dedication of Purity and our other facilitators, we are empowering young people in the community with knowledge in these areas to prevent harmful cultural practices like female genital mutilation (FGM) and discourage risky teen behaviors.

The Linda Dada (“Protect a Sister” in Swahili) campaign, which is an extension of our Health and Leadership Training program, combats rising teen pregnancy rates in response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in December 2020, we organized monthly training sessions for young people and parents to educate and reduce the stigma around topics of teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, HIV/AIDS, and STIs. To date, we have reached 986 participants through a total of 11 sessions. Working with local radio and television stations, we also broadcasted information to 325,000 listeners and viewers. Two more training sessions are planned for the end of this year. For 2022, we will partner with other community-based nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and government agencies to expand into two additional subdivisions to reach over 2,200 direct participants.

We look forward to sharing more updates on our Health and Leadership Training and Linda Dada campaign with you in the new year!

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Learning about Linda Dada
Learning about Linda Dada

In May, Kakenya’s Dream launched its extensive six-month Health and Leadership Training in an effort to teach more girls and boys in our community essential information as they approach and navigate through adolescence. The trainings provide resources on reproductive health and rights as well as the harmful effects of female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage. We train youth Mentor Trainers, many of whom are program alumnae, to deliver the curriculum in a fun and engaging manner. The Mentors offer their friendship and guidance to facilitate group discussion on gender-related inequalities from the girl-centric perspective. This peer-led approach allows participants to learn how to advocate for themselves and others, develop effective communication and leadership skills, and build relationships with adults in the community who can lend support without judgement or stigma.

We collaborate closely with the Ministry of Education in an effort to expand our programming across the region. More schools each year express an interest in participating in our trainings. In 2021, we have been hard at work expanding our program capacity to fifteen additional schools, an increase from ten the previous year, and in 2022, we plan to partner with twenty more schools. 

The ongoing COVID pandemic has underscored the importance of health education. Over the course of the past year, we have witnessed an  increase in the number of unplanned, teenage pregnancies in our communities. We, in response, created the Linda Dada (“Protect a Sister” in Swahili) campaign as an extension of our Health and Leadership Trainings to raise awareness of and reduce unplanned teen pregnancies by working with various stakeholders, including community leaders, parents, teachers, media, and nurses. The Linda Dada campaign provides critical sexual and reproductive health information, training on healthy interpersonal communication and relationships, as well as forums to have honest conversations around related topics traditionally seen as taboo, such as FGM and child marriage. To date, we have held a series of stakeholder meetings and have partnered with local media to launch an advocacy campaign which has reached over 325,000 people.

We remain excited about the potential of our revamped Health and Leadership Trainings and the Linda Dada campaign. We look forward to providing you more updates on both in the coming months and years!

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Studying in the classroom
Studying in the classroom

After 10 long months, Kakenya’s Dream fully reopened its two campuses on January 4! Our girls were excited to see their teachers, matrons, staff, and friends, and to continue their education in a safe and nurturing environment.

Our teachers, staff, and students are acutely aware that COVID-19 remains a threat, and have taken strict precautions to avoid the spread of the virus by forming a learning “bubble” on campus. Prior to our students’ return, our faculty and staff received COVID-19 training so that they could uphold strict health standards and protect our girls’ wellbeing. We also supplied each student, teacher, and staff member with double-layered cloth masks upon their return. For a month, we performed daily temperature checks on our students and enforced strict mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing protocols. With no symptoms of COVID-19 present on our campuses, our students are now able to continue learning without masks within the safety of the campus “bubble.”

Linet, one of our Class 7 students, says that being back on campus has brought her a great sense of happiness: “I’m happy sharing the dormitories with my classmates, especially my bedmate. She makes me laugh before I go to bed...even competing with other people in sports, you feel like you’re happy everywhere you go.”

Despite the joy on campus, our girls faced emotional stress at home related to abuse, the pressure to get married, and other cultural barriers. Our initial priority was our girls’ nutritional and physical health, but we are now focusing on their mental health and wellbeing. Our experienced school counselor is supporting our students by helping them overcome any trauma they faced at home and ensuring that any new mental health needs are addressed promptly. Once our girls’ physical, nutritional, and mental health needs are met, they will be able to concentrate on their studies and more effectively make up for lost time.

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, but we are excited to see what our students will achieve now that they are back in the optimal environment to thrive, become leaders, and achieve their potential.

We look forward to providing you with more updates on our girls as the year progresses!

Playing outside
Playing outside

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Our new mentors undergo training
Our new mentors undergo training

Through its Network of Excellence, Kakenya’s Dream administers a mentorship program to provide our students with a safe space to build their self-esteem, develop their voices, and overcome negative peer pressure. Before COVID-19, we partnered with an external organization to find recent college graduates to serve as mentors by working with students at our campuses, holding sessions on personal and professional development, and communicating with their mentees throughout the year. 

This year, we adjusted our mentorship model so that over 200 of our current scholars will be paired with 46 KCE alumnae who are currently enrolled in college. Having once been in the shoes of our current students, our new mentors will be better able to identify with the challenges their mentees face. We are currently training alumnae to become front line experts, leaders, and positive role models for our younger girls, and, in the process, continue to challenge the outdated social and cultural norms in their communities. Following the training, mentors and mentees will meet every week to assist with schoolwork and provide support around communication, health, leadership, and job preparation.

Ann, who I remember from when she first enrolled at KCE I,  is one of our new mentors. Her time at KCE has motivated her to give back to her community and inspire future generations:

“The mentorship program at Kakenya’s Dream is important because I am learning how to guide my peers and those who are younger than I. Previously, we were mentored by people who we did not even know, but now we can mentor younger girls in our program since we can relate more with them. I will be able to empower my mentees to avoid the harmful cultural practices in our community...I will be able to tell them the importance of education in their lives and the dangers of getting married at an early age.”

We can’t wait to see how women like Ann will impact current KCE students. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping us inspire a future generation of changemakers in rural Kenya.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year,

Kakenya

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Receiving a solar radio in the Angaza care package
Receiving a solar radio in the Angaza care package

Our planned activities for the year have, of course, taken an unexpected turn with the reality of the global health pandemic. With the spread of COVID-19 and school closures around the world, many aspects of Kakenya’s Dream’s operations - including our Health and Leadership Training - have been delayed, suspended, or otherwise modified. Kenya's schools have been closed since March and the government recently announced that they will remain closed through the rest of the year. Our girls do not have access to any kind of learning materials in their homes without Kakenya’s Dream support and, if left unaddressed, this would cause them to fall behind their peers in more resourced locations who are able to continue learning through radio programs, Whatsapp, and other media. We also know that in addition to missing academics, girls are lacking medical care, counseling, and reproductive health attention and information that we provide. Unfortunately, the longer our girls are away from school, the greater their risks and challenges are when they finally do return. 

Our team has quickly pivoted our planned activities to immediately address these concerns and have been busy implementing new measures to protect and support our girls through this time. In May, we launched the Angaza Project, meaning “shine” in Swahili. Through the Angaza Project, our team is providing care packages to our students and their families that include the basic necessities they lack at home, such as soap, feminine hygiene products, and food staples. We also purchased solar-powered radios to allow the girls to access the lessons being delivered through national and local radio stations by the Ministry of Education, as well as solar lights, story books, textbooks, and other learning materials. We will be regularly distributing supplies as long as the crisis continues and hope that this support will mitigate some of the challenges our girls are facing while at home.

Additionally, COVID has only exacerbated the already alarmingly high rates of teen pregnancy in our region. Even before the pandemic, our communities have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the country, currently at 40% - over twice the national average of 18%. Our team recognizes we need a stronger prevention strategy to combat early pregnancy and provide training on healthy interpersonal relationships. Beginning this fall/early winter, we plan to launch a community advocacy radio program to educate teenagers and young adults about how to be in control of their bodies, avoid unintended pregnancies, and learn about responsible family planning. We look forward to sharing more information in the next upcoming report - in the meantime, please sign up for our newsletter and connect with us via social media to get the latest updates!

Thank you for your continued belief in our work and your unwavering support of our girls. We are in this together.

An eighth grader with her Angaza care package
An eighth grader with her Angaza care package
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Kakenya's Dream

Location: Arlington, VA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @KakenyasDream
Project Leader:
Kakenya Ntaiya
Founder
Arlington, VA United States
$28,154 raised of $35,000 goal
 
443 donations
$6,846 to go
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