(February 2011) Kakenya Ntaiya was born in a rural village in southern Kenya, one of eight children. When she was 5 years old, her parents arranged an engagement to a local boy. She was to be circumcised before becoming a teenager to signify the end of her education and the start of married life. It seemed that a future of working on her rural family farm was set. But she made a deal with her father: She would agree to be circumcised only if he would allow her to finish high school. He agreed. She then negotiated with the village elders to do what no girl had done before: leave her village to go to college in the United States. Kakenya is now finishing her Ph.D. in education. Kakenya was the first youth adviser to the United Nations Population Fund, and she has traveled around the world to speak on the importance of educating girls, particularly as a means to fight the practices of female genital mutilation and child marriage. And, she started the only primary school for girls in her home region. The school has 95 girls in grades 4 through 6 and six teachers, and accepts 30 new girls each year.
In this interview, Ntaiya discusses the opportunities that come with education for girls in her community, the effects of early marriage on girls’ livelihoods, and how the practice of FGM/C has changed in Kenya. (Passed by Kenya’s parliament in 2001, the Children’s Act outlaws various forms of violation against children, including FGM, for females 18 and younger.)
You can learn more about Kakenya Ntaiya’s story and her school at www.kakenyasdream.org.
An animation for Vital Voices, an organization working globally for women’s independence. This film tells the childhood story of Kakenya Ntaiya. Directed by Aaron Kisner and Pistachios. Music by Dan Radlauer. Produced by Blacklist.