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

Our most recent Health and Leadership Camp in the Transmara District in Kenya filled 214 girls with anticipation and excitement as they arrived on campus for a week of both traditional camp activities and important learning experiences about their rights as girls.

In many ways, our Health and Leadership Camps, held in April and December, are similar to summer camps throughout the world. Hosted on our campus, our week-long holiday camps provide girls with a chance to come together to explore new ideas, make new friends and discover themselves at a critical time in their development. In Enoosaen, our camp is quite unique, providing girls not only with a fun holiday but with vital information about their sexual health, FGM, child marriage and its consequences, their legal rights and leadership skills.

During our December session, 25 alumnae from our KCE boarding school served as counselors at camp. These young women, now in grades 9-11 have a profound influence on the younger campers. Their self-assurance, knowledge and confidence are shining examples to younger campers of what can be achieved through working hard and continuing their education. I am forever grateful that our graduates return to take on these leadership roles at camp – inspiring the next generation of girls!

Each day, campers met informally in small groups to reflect on the day and discuss important issues. A highlight for campers was to listen to our high school counselors share stories about the expectations and realities of high school. The informal setting for these dialogues allowed campers to ask some tough questions of our counselors and to connect to older peers that inspire them to dream and reach for their goals.

Our workshops during camp are straightforward and honest about challenges girls face. Through hands on activities the girls learn life skills that can help them progress safely and confidently through high school and into adulthood.  

Of course, camp is not all lectures and lessons! Story telling, the talent show, “quiz night” and movie night provide a chance for the girls to relax and have fun. This year a group of volunteer coaches from Tag Rugby Trust coached the girls during our athletic time. The girls loved learning this new sport!

At the end of the week, we held our annual graduation ceremony for girls that have attended both our April and December camps. This milestone event is always a highlight of the year at KCE, bringing together community stakeholders such as parents, teachers, elders, and local officials to celebrate the achievement of our girls.

The music, award ceremony, prayer service and luncheon attracted both local and national media coverage!

Our camps fill a critical need in Kenya. December can be a dangerous time for young girls in Kenya, as it is the time of year when female genital mutilation ceremonies occur throughout the region. Our graduation ceremony provides the community with an alternative rite of passage that celebrates the dreams and success of these young women while sending a message that FGM will no longer be tolerated and revered as the only option for girls. This year the girls chose a “theme” for the graduation ceremony “I know my rights, a girl is an equal child”.

We first started the Health and Leadership Training program in 2011 to address the needs of thousands of girls in our district who need this vital training to learn about their rights and inspire their hope for the future. Our Health & Leadership Camps now reach 3,000 adolescents each year through our weekend trainings and week-long camps.   The growth of this program is a true testament to the need for accurate and reliable information on sexual health and legal rights for our youth. It is also a testament to the constant support we receive from supporters like you. Thank you!

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On October 23-24, we held our last health and leadership training of the year for 275 boys and girls. Our Health and Leadership training for 4th-7th grade students was hosted by the Olereko Primary School and attended by students from Mapashi Primary school, Enolkipelia Primary School and Erishata Learning Centre. Our training teams included the I am Worth Defending Team from Nairobi and the Centre for Adolescent Studies and Wezesha Foundation from Kilgoris. 

Our weekend training included two days of hands-on learning. We were thrilled that both male and female teachers were not only present for the trainings, but fully engaged throughout the weekend as well.  In the weeks following the training, the support and knowledge from the participating teachers will strengthen and reinforce our message for youth.

 As we do in every session, we asked the teens directly about the issues they felt were most pressing in their lives and what topics they would like covered during our weekend training. Overwhelmingly, the girls asked us to focus on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), HIV/AIDS, self-esteem, leadership and peer pressure.  The boys requested information on leadership, sexuality and peer pressure. Additional topics include team building, self defense and children’s rights.

 Our trainers facilitated an open and frank dialogue where teens felt respected and understood, which remains a strong tenet of our program. I’m pleased to share a few quotes from our girls:

  • “Our teachers were Ann and Caro. I particularly enjoyed that I learned how to prevent contracting HIV/AIDS, and how to take care of myself as a girl.”  – Mapashi
  • “I feel we should have such a seminar every month!” – Olereko 
  • "Our teachers taught us to be obedient to our parents and teachers and remain focused to attain our goals." – Enolkipelia

We are now diligently working on more thorough evaluation measurements to ensure effective programming that resonates powerfully with teens in 2016.

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I am pleased to share with you an update on our weekend Health and Leadership Training programs! This summer we hosted two programs at Ildolisho and Shaankoi primary schools. Attendance soared at both events, with an average of 400 students  in grades 5-8 participating at each camp.

Each day began with “ice-breakers” -- interactive games that brought students from different schools together as a group. Students really had fun and embraced team spirit.

The trainings for both the boys and girls focused on legal rights to education, self defense, adolescent and reproductive health, sexual and gender based violence, HIV/AIDS, drug and substance abuse, life skills and leadership.  Our goal in these sessions is not only to give teens the tools to face day-to-day challenges, but to give them the tools to be able to share their skills with their peers.

Our trainers were impressed by the level of maturity these students had in discussing challenges that they and their peers face, especially on topics considered taboo in the Maasai community.  Host teacher Mr. Sikawa said, “This training is going to the grass root. I personally find it very strategic and helpful.”

The inclusion of boys for one day of the weekend program has been a resounding success. Attendance has blossomed and the number one question from boys is often “Can we stay for day 2?”

 Here is what some of the boys said about camp:

  • “I have learned how to be a good leader”
  • “I have learned that every child is entitled to an education (in Kenya)” 
  • “A gentleman does the right thing at the right time”

 The girl’s sessions dealt with some tough questions on FGM, gender based violence and abuse. We are committed to ensuring that victims of violence have the resources and skills to seek help and to break the dominant culture of silence in their community. The highlight of our girl’s session was, as usual, the self-defense class where certified trainers teach hands on techniques.

Here is what some girls said about camp:

  • "I have learned how important girls are to society"
  • "I now know how to avoid danger"
  • "I can now comfortably stand in front of the whole school and say no to FGM"

We realize how vital these camps are to teens in Maasai Kenya. For most participants it is the first time receiving information on their legal rights, their sexuality, and adolescent health. As we continue these weekend camps, we are looking for ways to remain engaged with past participants and to provide continued resources for teachers, parents and teens.

Thank you for your support. Together we are giving young people the tools they need to soar!

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Girls in our April Camp
Girls in our April Camp

Dear Friends,

In April, we hosted our week-long health and leadership training camp on our campus. Our 6th grade girls were joined with 60 girls from other schools throughout the Transmara region. The trainers from I’m Worth Defending in Nairobi and our local trainers exposed the girls to different topics from FGM and legal rights to sexual health and prevention.

These trainings are a reality check for our staff and team. It reminds us of the tremendous need for health education, self-defense training and empowerment building outside our campus walls. The reality is that in Kenya, 85% of all sexual assaults occur in the home with someone the victim knows. Several girls that come to our camp have been violated and have never spoken about it or received any counseling. Our program continues to adapt to the needs and challenges of all the girls we serve. In addition to teaching girls how to protect themselves we are now in the process of hiring a certified counselor to work with girls who have already been victims of sexual assault.   I know this counseling will be a tremendous support for many girls.

 The days at camp are not completely filled with “structured time.” Every day the girls gather informally to simply share stories about life in their villages and to “compare notes” as all girls across cultures and continents do!  I was thrilled to be in Enoosaen for the spring camp. I shared my early childhood experience with the girls who were very excited about my accomplishment and felt personally challenged to do the same. The girls shared with me some of their own challenges but also their hopes and dreams for their homes and community. I left campus feeling motivated and determined to continue advocating for them and all girls in Kenya.

Thank you for supporting this Health and Leadership Training program. I feel blessed to have so many people validating our efforts through your continued support.



Posters from Self Defense Training
Posters from Self Defense Training
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Local officers facilitate some safety trainings
Local officers facilitate some safety trainings

December is a dangerous time for young Maasai girls. During this month, they are home from school for the holidays and at higher risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced early marriage. Although the girl I describe here does not attend our school (KCE)—she and others like her are part of my home village, and I have a genuine concern for each of them.

Naomi, who is 13 years old, just completed 8th grade, and was home for the holidays.  One morning before sunrise, she began her daily chores—including cleaning the mud hut, gathering firewood, and fetching water. Her mother and brothers were away at the outdoor market. As Naomi and her little sister worked, a group of men called for Naomi from outside the hut. They grabbed her and carried her away. Naomi’s sister ran to the market to find her mother, who immediately reported Naomi’s disappearance to the village chief. Although the chief promised to look into the matter, so far neither he nor the chief of police has taken any action. Naomi’s mother was told not to worry; that her daughter has been married to a good husband.

 Girls should never be taken against their will and forced to marry or undergo FGM. At KCE, our mission is to end this type of violence against girls forever. Our school and health and leadership trainings are teaching girls to protect themselves through self-defense skills, legal rights, and health education. Girls in my community and their families know that they can rely on our program for help and defense if needed. I am doing everything in my power to find Naomi and return her to her mother, and I will not stop until she is safe.

 Since the inception of our Health and Leadership Training Program we have enabled more that 1,000 girls in the region to gain confidence and learn about their bodies and their rights.

 As we begin a new year, we are committed to training both girls and boys on these important issues. Thank you for your continued support!

Team session
Team session
I'm Worth Defending teaches self defense to girls
I'm Worth Defending teaches self defense to girls
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Kakenya's Dream

Location: Arlington, VA - USA
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Twitter: @KakenyasDream
Project Leader:
Kakenya Ntaiya
Arlington, VA United States
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