Kakenya’s Dream is an international nonprofit organization leveraging education and knowledge to change the life trajectory of marginalized girls in remote and underserved areas of Africa. Guided by President and Founder Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya’s personal experience and vision, our mission is to empower girls to become positive leaders in their communities through education. Our unique, girl-centered approach involves the entire community, addresses harmful practices and poverty, and ensures our girls receive the resources and support they need to thrive as change-makers in the world.
Our goal is to see every girl in Africa achieve her full potential through education, free from female genital mutilation and child marriage. Through our three programs, we deliver life-altering education, support and services to girls, their families and communities. In 2016 alone, we reached more than 4,000 youth in our Health and Leadership trainings, provided comprehensive education to more than 200 girls in grades 4-8 at the Kakenya Center for Excellence and supported more than 100 of our boarding school alumnae with scholarships and mentorship in high school.
We believe in impacting one girl at a time, one community at a time, until all girls in Africa have the opportunities they need to learn and thrive. Our work begins in rural Kenya, where just 15.6% of all women have completed primary school and approximately 80% of women undergo FGM and child marriage (Kenya 2014 Health Demographic Survey Full Report).
“I had a dream where all the girls in my village could go to school.”
Kakenya Ntaiya was supposed to follow the traditional path for a Maasai woman. Engaged at 5, she underwent female genital mutilation (FGM) in her early teens in preparation for marriage. This was supposed to mark the end of her childhood (and education) and prepare her for marriage. Since birth, she had been taught that she should only dream of becoming a mother and wife.
Kakenya had a different dream. She negotiated with her father to return to school after undergoing FGM. Though this was unheard of, he agreed. Several years later, she negotiated to do what no girl from her community had ever done: leave the village to go to college in the United States. She promised them she would use her education to benefit the village; in return, everyone collected money to pay for her journey.
Kakenya received a scholarship to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now the co-ed Randolph College) in Virginia. She grew up without electricity, but soon adapted to writing papers on computers. She also became the first youth advisor to the United Nations Population Fund, where she traveled the world as a passionate advocate for girls’ education, which she knows is crucial to ending harmful practices like FGM and child marriage. She went on to the University of Pittsburgh, where she received her Doctorate in Education in 2011. During this time, she married and had two children.
Today, Dr. Ntaiya is fulfilling her promise to her community. As the founder and president of the Kakenya’s Dream organization, she believes education will empower and motivate young girls to become agents of change in their families, community and country. Since Kakenya’s Dream’s inception in 2008, the organization’s three programs have served more than 8,000 youth and provided a safe, nurturing school environment for more than 350 girls.
In 2013, Dr. Ntaiya was honored by the Global Women’s Rights Award by the Feminist Majority Foundation, was recognized by Women in the World as a “Women of Impact” and named a Top Ten CNN Hero. She was honored 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 was counted among the Women Deliver 100: The Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women. Her story has been the subject of a Washington Post series, a National Geographic feature, a BBC documentary and many magazine articles.