Mandela Day 2017: Action Against Poverty

July 18th is Nelson Mandela Day, celebrating his tireless fight to protect and promote human rights. Throughout his lifetime, Mandela fought for justice as a human rights lawyer, political prisoner, peacemaker, and president of South Africa. Mandela Day was created in 2009, before his death in 2013, to recognize his contributions to freedom and peace. Each year, Nelson Mandela Day has a special theme related to how people can give back. This year’s theme is Action Against Poverty.

At Kakenya’s Dream, we celebrate Mandela Day because of our shared commitment to protecting human rights and dignity for all. Before we opened our first school in 2009, very few girls in our community in rural Kenya could get an education past the primary level. Today, our programs are closing the gender gap in educational attainment and ending harmful practices that violate our girls’ rights.

This year’s theme, Action Against Poverty, is especially relevant for our work. Most of our girls lived in poverty before coming to KCE. Many of them are orphans or come from single parent households; they come from families who could never have afforded to send them to school without our support. It takes more than just tuition to end poverty, however, which is why we fully support our girls’ education even after they leave our school to pursue high school and university degrees. Once a girl begins her education at KCE, she become a part of a supportive community that is seeking to lift her up because we know that the best way to end poverty is to empower those most affected by it.   

Nelson Mandela famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Help us fight poverty on Mandela Day by giving a girl the power of education today.  

 

 

 

 

World Youth Skills Day July 15

World Youth Skills Day: Skills Development to Improve Youth Employment

The United Nations recognizes July l5th as World Youth Skills Day to raise awareness of the importance of young people developing skills that will better prepare them for the labor force around the world. The UN reports that young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and are continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs. This reinforces inequality and makes young people’s transition from school to work even more challenging.

Youth Skills Day highlights education and practical training as key elements of success for young people entering the work force. This parallels one of the Sustainable Development Goals’ target of increasing the number of youth and adults with relevant skills that can be attributed to later success in an individual’s work career (to learn more about our work and the SDGs, click here).

At Kakenya’s Dream, we believe that all young girls and boys should have the opportunity to discover and develop their talents. An individual’s personal achievement in the workforce can have a positive ripple effect on their family, community, country, and ultimately the world.

Our boarding school, the Kakenya Center for Excellence, gives young girls the opportunity to develop these skills needed to become change agents and contributing members to their community, nation, and global society. Emphasizing the importance of young people in the workforce will better prepare and strengthen the entire labor force for the future. Our Network for Excellence continues to hone our alumnae’s skills and leadership talents. Click here to read more about the ways our programs are teaching young girls empowering and life-changing skills for success.

Help us provide our girls with the skills and trainings they need to thrive in their future careers and communities by making a gift here.

 

Happy Malala Day!

 

On October 9, 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was on the school bus home when she was shot in the head by the Taliban. The Pakistani activist has spoken out against the Taliban and in support of girls’ education from the age of 11 years old. Even before her assassination attempt, she had received death threats. Despite these tremendous obstacles, Malala continues to be a powerful and inspirational advocate for education.  

Today, we recognize Malala’s accomplishments on behalf of girls everywhere fighting for their right to go to school. She says, “I tell my story not because it is unique but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.”

 

Malala embodies the values of resilience, persistence, and courage that we aim to instill in all our girls at Kakenya’s Dreams. Like Malala, our girls have hopes and dreams of becoming doctors, teachers, lawyers, and other leadership roles in their communities that are only possible through empowering education. We also protect our girls from the harmful practices of child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), so they may continue their educations and keep dreaming big. 

 

Malala provides us with an example that girls can, and should, be at the forefront of discussions about the real challenges they face and what resources they need to succeed. Our girls face many hardships in their journeys to gain equal access to education. We must listen to and amplify their voices.

Today, we thank and celebrate Malala for her relentless efforts to fight for all girls to go to school and continue to carry out Malala’s dream with our girls at KCE. To join Malala’s mission and give the gift of education to a girl in need, click here.

July 11th, 2017: World Population Day

Today is World Population Day! Created by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 1990, World Population Day highlights an important population issue each year. This year’s theme is “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations.” Since its conception, many countries, governments, organizations, and citizens have joined together to celebrate.

This year on World Population Day, the second Family Planning Summit will take place.  The international conference will emphasize the importance of access to contraception and voluntary family planning. These services are not as available as they should be, especially in some of the world’s most impoverished countries.  At the first Family Planning Summit in 2012, partner organizations and country representatives set a goal of reaching 120 million women and girls with access to modern contraceptives by 2020. Today, there are still 225 million women and girls who do not have access to safe and effective contraceptives and family planning.

At Kakenya’s Dream, we know that access to quality health care, including sexual and reproductive health, is essential for our girls’ learning and empowerment. That’s why our Health and Leadership Training program includes sessions and resources that help girls in our community understand and protect their bodies. The topics covered include sexually transmitted infections, early and adolescent pregnancy, effects of child marriage, FGM, and other health risks young girls face at higher rates than others in the community.


Join us on World Population Day to protect our girls against early childhood marriage, early pregnancy, and unsafe births by donating here. Your gift will give more girls access to our Health and Leadership Training Programs, and give them the information they need to advocate for their own reproductive and family planning needs.

 

 

 

Sustainable Development Goals

What are the SDGS?

Between 2000 and 2015 the international community rallied behind the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), uniting to take action on 8 specific, measurable goals that would enable us to cut global poverty in half and make strides in a number of other, crucial areas of development. In January 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were introduced as the successors of the MDGs, broadening and lengthening the scope of globally united development efforts.

 

What’s new about the SDGs?

The SDGs consist of 17 goals, some entirely new and some adapted from the MDGs. They range from eliminating poverty and hunger, to addressing climate change, promoting clean energy and promoting growth and infrastructure development to build sustainable cities. The goals that Kakenya’s Dream is most engaged with are:

 

  • Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

  • Goal 4: Quality Education

  • Goal 5: Gender Equality

 

Our model works to promote health, well-being, and gender equality through quality education for our girls. In educating them, we help raise conscientious citizens, who will go on to help create a more sustainable world for others. Through our whole-child curriculum, the girls learn about their own rights, about reproductive health and sexually transmitted infections, about FGM, and so much more, all alongside their more traditional school subjects.

 

Girls play at the KCE boarding school.

Girls play at the KCE boarding school.

 

Like the SDGs, we take a holistic and sustainable approach to ensuring each and every one of our girls can achieve her full potential. Click below to help us continue our work towards making this happen:

 

 

 

Annual Report 2016

It is with great pleasure we are releasing our premier Annual Report for 2016. Since our birth almost nine years ago, Kakenya's Dream has helped thousands of girls, their families, and communities dream and work towards a better future. From a hopeful handful to a global network of dreamers, we are joined together by the belief that every girl, no matter where she's from, deserves to stay in school and live free from female genital mutilation and child marriage. Thank you to all our supporters around the world for being part of this incredible journey. 

Our Biggest Health and Leadership Training Ever!

Playing games outside.

Playing games outside.

In April, more than 300 girls came to campus for our biggest ever Health and Leadership Training Camp.

They spent a week together, laughing and learning. Sessions included everything from public speaking to basic hygiene to self-defense. While every session is filled with hands-on fun, the talent show and outdoor games were the week’s highlights.

By the end of the week, the girls’ transformations are breathtaking. Using entry and exit surveys, we see girls empowered by knowledge of their rights, health, and leadership.

One 6th grade attendee, Jane, says “I didn’t know FGM is a bad practice. Now I will go back to my village and tell other girls.”

One of the most powerful aspects of each camp is that the information provided doesn’t just stay with the camp’s attendees. Each girl takes the knowledge and it spreads. They tell mothers, aunts, cousins, and friends.

Playing an icebreaker before an informative session.

Playing an icebreaker before an informative session.

Some light-hearted laughter during self-defense class.

Some light-hearted laughter during self-defense class.

This was our first camp of the year, with many more to come. We have two more weeklong camps planned already, in addition to monthly weekend trainings for both boys and girls. We are excited to continue changing lives through this incredible program in 2017!

 

Make a gift to support an upcoming Health and Leadership Training Camp: 

What About The Boys?

Sometimes asked just out of curiosity, other times with concern, we hear this question a lot. It’s a good question, and it has an important answer.

First, let’s talk about why Kakenya’s Dream focus on girls.

A group of KCE students at KCE play together between classes.

A group of KCE students at KCE play together between classes.

 

Almost all societies are patriarchal, meaning women and girls face gendered challenges that their male peers do not experience.* In our community, this includes harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), lack of access to education and economic resources, and violence against women. Boys often receive preferential treatment, from larger portions at meals to greater support for their studies.

These gendered challenges hold women and girls back and prevent them from contributing their utmost to society. When these barriers are removed, it’s been shown time and time again that the result—more empowered women and girls—is a catalyst for broad community transformations, including economic growth (try here, here, and here if you’d like to learn more).

For example, when girls are given access to education, the entire community benefits. Not only are educated girls less likely to marry early, undergo FGM, and become pregnant, they are shown to invest in their communities at higher rates than men. Educated women are also less likely to live in poverty and statistically improve overall quality of life for their families and communities. The list of benefits goes on and on.**

We’ve seen this take place in front of our own eyes in rural Kenya, forming the foundation of our model. It’s why we’re what’s called a girl-centric organization. We target girls to improve life for everyone in the community: girls, their families, and yes, also the boys.

That said, boys and men are still key to the work we do and the community-wide transformation we are trying to bring. From the beginning, we’ve worked with fathers and other men in the community to help them see the value in supporting girls and we’ve continued to expand these opportunities. Here are just a few of the ways we’re reaching men and boys today:

Group of boys and young men at a breakout session at one of our Health and Leadership Trainings.

Group of boys and young men at a breakout session at one of our Health and Leadership Trainings.

 

At our co-ed weekend Health and Leadership Trainings, we provide both boys and girls the information and skills the need to be healthy and happy. We cover everything from sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDs to basic hygiene. Boys learn about some of the challenges girls face, including female genital mutilation/cutting and stigma around menstruation, empowering them to become allies and advocates for change.

  • Fathers

In our community, fathers and daughters traditionally did not mix. Girls would go through their mother to ask their father’s permission for something, and even that is rare. We’re changing that at the Kakenya Center for Excellence. We invite fathers to visit each month to check in on their daughter. What starts as a parent conference about her grades slowly blossoms into a relationship. Fathers and daughters get to know each other. One father recently transformed from protesting his daughter’s education to proudly escorting her to her first day of high school in Nairobi just a few years -- his first time to the city.

Naomi, a Network for Excellence student, and her father. They’ve built a close relationship since she first started at KCE as a fourth grader. She will graduate from high school in 2017.

Naomi, a Network for Excellence student, and her father. They’ve built a close relationship since she first started at KCE as a fourth grader. She will graduate from high school in 2017.

 

  • Male Community Leaders

A key part of our model is the importance of bringing the whole community along in the work we do. In addition to working with the chief and other leaders, we also have a passionate Community Board made up of both men and women. The men are strong role models and encourage other men to stand up for girls’ education and against harmful traditional practices.

Pastor James is our Community Board Chair. He uses his platform as a well-respected leader in the community to advocate for girls’ education.

Pastor James is our Community Board Chair. He uses his platform as a well-respected leader in the community to advocate for girls’ education.

 

To learn more about our programs, check out the Our Approach page.

*While women and girls face different, gendered challenges, that is not to say that men and boys are not affected by poverty, lack of quality health care, poor educational systems, and other issues. Indeed, there are even some challenges that disproportionately affect men and boys, such as child soldiering. However, oppression of women and girls is systemic, meaning it is widespread and supported implicitly or explicitly by institutions (such as the Church or government), leading to devastating disadvantages. Men and boys also benefit from this oppression in some ways, intentionally or not. Increased efforts must be made to support all people suffering in the face of injustice.

** For a great summary of why investing in girls matters, check out this report from Plan International.

Periods Matter & Period Matters: Understanding the Link Between Menstruation & Education

In anticipation of the global Menstrual Health Day on May 28, 2016, let’s take this opportunity to talk about the link between girls’ education (and lives!) and menstruation.

As in many places worldwide, women and girls in our community struggle to find safe and hygienic ways to manage their periods. Sanitary napkins are often hard to find and prohibitively expensive. Myths around menstruation also tell girls their periods are dirty, shameful, unlucky, and even a disease. This stigma, combined with few affordable and safe options to manage menstruation, impedes girls’ access to education.

A growing body of research illuminates the extent of this problem. A recent study found that just 32% of rural schools in Kenya had a place for girls to privately change their menstrual hygiene product. Another showed Kenyan girls miss about 3-7 days of school each month because of menstruation. These data aren’t unique to Kenya either; this UNESCO report estimates that 1 in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa miss at least some school while on their period.

Each year, Menstrual Health Day reignites conversation about this crucial link between menstruation and keeping girls in school. At Kakenya’s Dream, we empower girls to take control of their own menstrual health. At the KCE boarding school, we educate girls about menstruation and provide sanitary napkins. Our nurse practitioner visits several times a week too, providing access to health care in case of infection or other concerns.

In order to fight the stigma and harmful myths around menstruation, our co-ed Health and Leadership Trainings give both boys and girls the facts. Now, boys are supporting and advocating for their menstruating peers.

Menstruation should not be a barrier to go to school. It’s a normal and healthy part of life, and providing girls the resources they need ensures they can be healthy and happy too.

 

JOIN US ON MENSTRUAL HEALTH DAY

We’ll be live-tweeting, instagramming, and posting on Facebook in the lead up to and during Menstrual Health Day. Connect with us on social media and use #MHday to join in the fun. (LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS)

Ready, Set, Read!: KCE celebrates new library

Eight years ago, KCE completed the first building on campus. It was small, with space for only one classroom, but it provided a safe environment for our first 26 students to learn and grow.

Today, more than 150 girls call the KCE campus home. They live in comfortable dormitories, learn in bright classrooms, and eat and play in the spacious Multi-Purpose Hall. KCE’s newest space—the brand new library—is the final piece in our campus puzzle. After months of careful planning and construction, the library was completed at the end of March. The many shelves, movable tables, and bright blue chairs make the library a perfect space for our growing scholars to learn, create, and collaborate.

Our girls love to read, so it's no surprise that the new library is already the busiest building on campus. Students of all ages drop by to find new books to read, finish homework, and study with their peers.

English teacher Mr. Okello helps one of his 7th grade students in the library.

English teacher Mr. Okello helps one of his 7th grade students in the library.

Teachers are also already utilizing the new space. As soon as the library opened, English teacher Mr. Okello (picture above) brought his 7th graders to the library to practice their reading comprehension skills. He says the library’s setup allows the girls to help each other learn and work side-by-side. He also looks forward to seeing more books added to the shelves, which will encourage his students to read more for pleasure.

Several KCE students smile during their first trip to the library.

Several KCE students smile during their first trip to the library.

As shelves fill and time passes, we can’t wait to witness the positive impact the new library will have on our growing scholars and community.


Want to help us fill the new library’s shelves?
Make a gift to girls’ education today:

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL 2016 CELEBRATION

Every year on October 11th, communities and organizations around the world celebrate the International Day of the Girl. In our community, parents and friends gathered at the school to celebrate with our girls. In addition to singing, dancing, and eating together to honor the day, we also asked our girls to complete the statement “I am a girl, I have the power too…” Here’s what they said:

“I am a girl; I have the power to be educated.”

“I am a girl; I have the power to fight for the rights of girls to be educated in society.”

“I am a girl; I have the power to be the President of Kenya.”

“I am a girl; I have the power to change my society.”

CLASS OF 2021 ENROLLMENT

On November 15th and 16th, hundreds of rising fourth grade girls came with their guardians to the Kakenya Center for Excellence boarding school for enrollment. The girls represented over a dozen schools and localities. The enrollment process involves an assessment test, interviews with the girls and their family, and gathering official information about the girl and her academic record. This year, 40 girls were selected based on need and academic ability to attend the school in January 2017. Click here to support their education! 

WE SHARE SOLAR

September is a busy month at the Kakenya Center for Excellence. In addition to the end of the August holiday, the new month also brings an exciting solar installation project to campus (see below) from our partners at We Care Solar (hyperlink https://wecaresolar.org/ ) , a San Francisco, CA-based organization that supports the We Share Solar Suitcase project.

Each suitcase, built by student volunteers in the U.S., provides easy-to-use, safe and durable solar electricity systems to schools and orphanages in rural communities without reliable power. Consistent, reliable energy is essential for our girls to study and socialize safely after dark. Before partnering with We Share Solar, our girls would often go hours or even days without lights in their dormitories, dining hall and classrooms. We are thrilled to welcome our new partners and this sustainable and dependable energy source to our campus!