With Eyes on the Sky, a Maasai Girl Follows her Dream
- By The Global Fund for Children on June 12th, 2014
- Category: Featured, Sub-Saharan Africa, Success Stories
Grantee Partner: Kakenya Center for Excellence
Location: Enoosaen, Kenya
Angeline has her sights set on the sky: she wants to be a pilot when she grows up. When asked where she’d fly to, she says, “I want to fly to America to go to university there.”
Unfortunately, for many girls like Angeline, obstacles stand in the way of big dreams.
In the Maasai community where Angeline lives, girls are often married off at age 12 after undergoing female genital mutilation. This traditional rite of passage into adulthood is extremely painful and dangerous, and it can lead to myriad problems, from infection to death.
Maasai girls are usually expected to drop out of school after this ceremony takes place, to take on their new roles as wives and mothers.
But Angeline was lucky. When she was 11 years old, she was admitted to the Academy for Girls, a boarding school for adolescent girls. A project of the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE), the Academy is the only school of its kind in the region.
Kakenya Ntaiya, founder of KCE, knows what it is like to be a Maasai girl with aspirations. Engaged at age 5, with marriage expected by age 13, Kakenya instead negotiated with her family and community to allow her to continue her education. In return, she promised to use her education to benefit Enoosaen.
True to her word, Kakenya has dedicated her organization to improving the lives of the most vulnerable and underprivileged Maasai girls. The Academy boasts a 100 percent retention rate and consistently ranks among the top schools in its division.
Alongside the educational and leadership curriculum, girls at the Academy learn enriching cultural traditions such as storytelling and beadwork. Life skills training teaches them how to maintain strong homes and productive and healthy farms.
Though many parents and village elders were unsure at first, the Academy has brought about a new level of acceptance of girls’ education. The chief of the village, who once publicly declared that girls should be married and not educated, is now a staunch supporter of KCE and its mission.
Now 16, Angeline has graduated from the Academy and is going to high school with assistance from KCE. Last year, Kakenya was named a CNN Hero for transforming the lives of girls like Angeline and helping them to pursue their dreams.