By Patience Shawarira
On 1 October 2014, 263Chat held a fireside chat with Kakenya Ntaiya from Kenya, the chat was held under the theme ‘our girls our future’. The chat was held at Hypercube and was facilitated by Nigel Mugamu, Founder and CEO of 263Chat.
Kakenya’s story is one of courage and bravery. Narrating her story, Kakenya a humble and inspiring woman says at age 5 she already knew who her husband was.
“I grew up knowing who my husband was and everything I was taught was meant to prepare me for marriage”, says Kakenya.
She said in the Massai community once a woman reached age of 12/13 years she is considered ripe for marriage. At that age normally a girl is expected to be at school but with the Massai community, educating a girl child is viewed as a waste of resources.
Instead a girl at that age is viewed as being mature enough to be married off and to take care of her husband and family. The question that pops to my mind when I heard all this was, is the body of a 12 year old children developed and ready enough to carry a child?
She says growing up in an African setting and being the first born and a girl child was torrid task for her because she had to basically become a mother from the time she could walk.
In narrating her story Kakenya said she had to negotiate with her father for her to go to school and to continue with her education upon reaching an age where she was expected to be married. Kakenya said she made a deal with her father. She would undergo the traditional Masaai rite of passage of female circumcision, if he would let her go to high school.
Kakenya tells the fearless story of continuing to college, and of working with her village elders to build a school for girls in her community.
Kakenya said upon completing her education she got a scholarship to go and study in United States of America, where she later learnt that the practise of FMG was unlawful in Kenya and that she did not have to go through the practise. Kakenya said,
“I learned that ceremony I went through is called female genital mutilation. I learned that it was against the law in Kenya. I learned that I did not have to trade part of my body to get an education …”
Kakenya is passionate about empowering the girl child.
Kakenya said upon her return to Kenya, she solicited the help of her elders and built a school for girls, which seeks to empower and motivate young girls through education and to break the cycle of destructive cultural practises such as female mutilation and early forced marriage. She said to date she has managed to educate 125 children from poor and marginalised families who do have the financial resources to send a girl child to school. She said the school is a safe place for girls to pursue their dreams.
“These girls needed a place where they could be nurtured and a place where they could be told that marriage is not the end,” explains Ntaiya
“as we speak right now, 125 girls will never be mutilated. 125 girls will not be married when they are 12-years-old. 125 girls are creating and achieving their dream…”
“I have girls in my school right now — they have dreams of wanting to be pilots, they want to be doctors. They want to explore the world”, says Ntaiya.
She said by educating at least one girl child per household she is education a nation because the girl will ensure that her siblings are also educated.
Patience Shawarira is a journalist who is passionate about gender issues, she writes in her personal capacity. She can be contacted on email: email@example.com