A Kenyan lady has been nominated as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2013. Kakenya Ntaiya has been recognized for her work to end female genital mutilation and girl child empowerment within her Maasai community. Ntaiya, who had to undergo the cut when she was 14 years old, vowed to finish her High School studies instead of the early marriage where most young girls ended up.
“I really liked going to school,” she told CNN. “I knew that once I went through the cutting, I was going to be married off. And the dream of becoming a teacher was going to end.”
Ntaiya’s desire to pursue education with support from her mother paid off when she earned an undergraduate scholarship in the US. As an undergraduate, she became the first youth advisor to the United Nations Population Fund. In that capacity, she traveled around the world as a passionate advocate for girls’ education.
But the job and exposure did not blind Ntaiya’s vision. The 34 year old earned her doctorate in education at the University of Pittsburgh as she continued her work with the UN before she returned home to work with the community as she had promised the elders before going to the US.
Dr. Ntaiya opened Kakenya Center of Excellence which started as an informal school but now helps 150 girls achieve their education dreams. The school in Narok provides three meals, uniform, books and boarding facilities for the girls who would otherwise be doing house chores or married at an early age.
Kakenya was honoured with a Vital Voices Global Leadership award in 2008 and as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2010. She was named one of Newsweek’s ‘150 Women Who Shake the World’ in 2011 and counted among the Women Deliver 100. She was a featured speaker at TEDx Midatlantic Conference.
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