Kakenya Ntaiya

Engaged at age five, Kakenya Ntaiya was supposed to undergo ritual circumcision by the time she was a teenager – an event that would mark the end of her education and the beginning of her preparations for marriage.

Holding fast to dreams of becoming a teacher, Kakenya negotiated with her father; she would would go through the ceremony only if she could also finish high school. He agreed.

After completing high school, she negotiated with the village elders to do what no girl had ever done: leave her Maasai village of Enoosaen to go to college in the United States. The girl who grew up without electricity wrote papers on international relations and political science on the computers in the university library.

Kakenya earned her doctorate in education and is now a passionate activist for girls’ education. She has experienced firsthand the freedom and opportunity afforded a secondary education, and now she’s realizing her dream to provide the same for the girls of Enoosaen.

In May 2009, 32 girls from the region enrolled at the Kakenya Center for Excellence, the girls’ school Kakenya built in her village. In 2013, 160 girls attended the school and the first class will graduate.