December Issue 2014

Page 45

At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to follow a different path and pursue education, going against a tradition that saw women raised primarily for motherhood?

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Even as a young girl, I could see how difficult life was for women in my community. My mother worked very, very hard to support our family, grow our crops, and keep me and my 7 siblings fed. My father worked in the city, so he only came home once every year or two. When he did come home, he would sell all that my mother had worked so hard to grow and use the money to drink with his friends in the bar. Because she was a woman, my mother was not allowed to complain. This all seemed deeply wrong to me and made me angry. My mother encouraged me to stay in school so that I could have a life that was different from hers. I wanted to do just that. I daydreamed about becoming a teacher because teachers wore nice dresses and their job seemed so much easier than the daily chores I did on the farm – sweeping the house, cooking for the family, hauling water from the river, and collecting firewood. By the time I had completed primary school, I knew that I was to follow a different path. Please share a bit about the role Kakenya Center for Excellence has played in breaking boundaries and stereotypes placed on women? Last year, our first class graduated from our primary boarding school. Out of 33 schools in the Keyian Division, KCE’s girls performed best on their

national exams, and all 22 of our girls have enrolled in high quality secondary schools around the country. The girls’ success is the culmination of 5 years at our boarding school, in which the girls received one-onone attention, health and leadership training, and the nurturing support of an all-girls environment. Their achievements are showing the community that when girls are given the support they need, the can succeed academically and become leaders in their communities. This benefits everyone, and the benefits are greater than what a family can receive through a dowry by marrying their daughters off at a young age. This began with my own journey to the US to attend college. Initially, the elders in my village were reluctant to give their blessing for a girl to take this opportunity. They felt that it should be a boy instead. However, I used my education to better the community, and this left a lasting impression on those who doubted me. My KCE girls all dream of doing the same – using their education to improve the lives of their families, neighbors, and friends through bringing better healthcare, legal services, education, and more. []