Target: Women’s Rights Activist, Kakenya Ntaiya
Goal: Thank activist Kakenya Ntaiya for her efforts to end female circumcision and empower young Kenyan women.
Kakenya Ntaiya was just fourteen years old when she was brought into a cow pen in front of a crowd of onlookers. An elderly woman with a rusty knife then proceeded to perform a female circumcision on her. Ntaiya can still remember the pain: it was so bad that she fainted. Ntaiya was just one of an estimated 140 million young girls and women affected by genital mutilation, a tradition dating back generations, and often a precursor to girls dropping out of school and marrying at a young age. For some girls, this rite of passage is performed as early as only ten years of age. Ntaiya had long been fighting against undergoing the procedure but when her father finally insisted, she persuaded him to allow her to continue school afterwards. She was determined to make an effort to stop the barbaric practice of female circumcision, and instead offer young Kenyan girls the opportunity to attend school and receive an education. After obtaining a scholarship to study in the United States, earning her doctorate degree in education and working for the United Nations, Ntaiya fulfilled a promise to her native village by returning and, after working to persuade village elders of the importance of young girls going to school, opening the Kakenya Center for Excellence, a school for girls.
The Kakenya Center for Excellence is currently helping over 150 girls receive an education, and thereby offering them the opportunity for a better life. Parents who hope to enroll their daughters at the school must agree that they will not put their daughters through any form of female circumcision or early marriage. Though female circumcision and child marriage are now illegal in Kenya, many rural villages still follow these traditions. Ntaiya hopes that her efforts, combined with the efforts of others, will eventually lead to the eradication of female genital mutilation and child marrying altogether. Recently she expanded the school to offer living space to young girls as well, eliminating the need to walk miles to attend, and face the threat of sexual assault along the way. In the future, Ntaiya hopes to offer lower grades at the school, as well as tutoring and career services for girls heading to high school. Ultimately, she hopes to see a future generation of well-educated women who will also be inspired to take a stand against anti-women customs and traditions. Applaud Ntaiya’s brave act of challenging the long-standing, anti-women customs of her culture, and for providing a better, and safer life for young, Kenyan girls.
Dear Kakenya Ntaiya,
Your ceaseless efforts to provide a better quality of life for young girls in Kenya is both admirable and inspirational. Despite the circumstances of your youth, you were able to overcome the limitations of a male-dominated culture and bring hope to other girls that they may do the same. By setting up the Kakenya Center for Excellence, you have not only provided immediate security for young girls, but have also instilled in them a sense of confidence and empowerment that will last through future generations.
I wish to thank you for your inspiring work to help young girls and women escape from a fate of suffering through genital mutilation and child marriage, and for encouraging others to offer their help as well. Your efforts are powerful and inspirational.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Pierre Holtz for UNICEF via fotopedia