Bringing Dreams within Reach for Maasai Girls

By Elise Derstine | October 19, 2017 | Africa & The Middle East | Education, Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity

Kakenya’s Dream / Enoosaen, Transmara District, Kenya

Meet Angeline, one of hundreds of Maasai girls who are following their dreams to high school, college, and beyond.

When we first met Angeline in 2013, she was in eighth grade and dreamed of becoming a pilot. Today, in her last year of high school, Angeline remains an ambitious young woman, though her goals have evolved: now she wants to be an agricultural engineer.

And thanks to Kakenya’s Dream, Angeline is well on her way. Science and math are her favorite subjects. She’s laser-focused on keeping her grades up so she can gain acceptance to the University of Nairobi.

© Kakenya’s Dream
© Kakenya’s Dream

Angeline in 2013 (left), and then in 2017 at the beginning of her final year of high school (right).

Angeline’s dreams haven’t always been within reach. In Enoosaen, 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.

© Kakenya’s Dream

But one remarkable woman—born and raised in the village—has become a powerful force for change. Her courage is transforming the lives of hundreds of girls like Angeline.

Kakenya Ntaiya was engaged at age 5, with marriage expected by age 13. But instead of getting married, she negotiated with her family and community to allow her to get an education. In return, Kakenya promised to use her education to benefit her village. True to her word, she founded Kakenya’s Dream—the first organization in the region to offer high-quality education for Maasai girls.

© Nina Brenner Photography

At the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE)—the organization’s all-girls boarding school—students in grades 4 to 8 study English, Swahili, geography, mathematics, science, the arts, and more. The school boasts a 100% retention rate and consistently ranks among the top schools in its division.

But academics are only part of the picture: the girls also learn about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the risks of early marriage and early childbirth. Healthcare is provided free of charge to all students. The girls also take part in leadership trainings and learn life skills and enriching cultural practices, including how to maintain productive farms.

When they are ready for secondary school, all KCE graduates enter the Network for Excellence alumnae program, which provides financial, academic, professional, and emotional support as they make this critical transition. Mentoring and career support continue as these young women graduate from high school and enter higher education or vocational training.

© Kakenya’s Dream

For girls like Angeline, who has been raised by her grandmother since she was a little girl, KCE offers a wholly new pathway in life—one focused on girl’s empowerment and autonomy. 100% of all boarding-school students and alumnae have continued their education. 100% have avoided female genital mutilation and early marriage.

Though many parents and village elders were unsure at first, KCE has brought about widespread local 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.

© Nina Brenner Photography
© Nina Brenner Photography

GFC regional director Emmanuel Otoo has been fortunate enough to visit the village of Enoosaen. Here, Emmanuel wears a shuka and holds a fimbo—gifts from the KCE community. “It was also a symbolic way of transitioning me from an outsider or a stranger to a community member,” Emmanuel says. “After I received the cloth and the stick, one of the elders said to me, ‘You are now one of us.’”

Now ready to graduate from our funding partnership, Kakenya’s Dream has been part of the GFC family since 2010, just one year after opening the KCE school.

Over the years, Kakenya’s Dream has grown from a nascent organization to a globally recognized entity.

When we gave Kakenya’s Dream its first GFC grant, the organization supported just 63 students. Now, in addition to offering holistic care and education to over 180 girls each year at the boarding school, Kakenya’s Dream provides health and leadership trainings to thousands of boys and girls across the country and supports over 130 KCE alumnae as they continue their education in top high schools across the country.

© Kakenya’s Dream

To help Kakenya’s Dream grow its programs and improve its operations, we’ve worked hard to connect the organization to new funders, resulting in more than $300,000 in new grants. Currently, Kakenya’s Dream is receiving assistance from our strategic partner Grant Thornton International to further advance its operational and strategic capacity. With our support, Kakenya herself has earned a lot of well-deserved recognition—including being named a CNN Hero.

Perhaps most importantly, Kakenya is a role model for hundreds of girls like Angeline, each of whom has her own plan to become a veterinarian, a teacher, a doctor. In fact, many girls want to build schools just like KCE, where they can help the next generation of girls pursue their dreams.

Share this story

Impact in Your Inbox

Stay in the know about what’s happening at Global Fund for Children, including news and stories, special events, and more!

Recommended Stories Read All

Visit our newest partner in Tanzania, Faraja Young Women Development Organization.
Africa & The Middle East
While visiting GFC partners in the field, Jessica Kanya-Ngambi was reminded of her childhood in nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Africa & The Middle East
Journey to West Africa with Bundie Kabanze, who reflects on the spirit of Ubuntu and the resilience of communities that have experienced great hardship.
Africa & The Middle East
The newest member of our Africa team reflects on the grassroots movement to eliminate violence against women and girls–and speaks of her own experience as a Congolese woman.
Africa & The Middle East

Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

Work.Life, 4 Crown Place
London EC2A 4BT

[email protected]