This morning, I argued with my 7-year-old daughter about whether or not she should go to school. Like many American kids, she does not appreciate school, and she frequently lobbies intensely to return to her days of morning play dates and afternoon cartoons.
She really has no idea how lucky she is. She can't even imagine a world where the possibility of going to school is a dream for many children — particularly girls. She has never known a world where she would have to fight for an education, where she would have to trade a part of her body to get that education.
But that is the life for one Maasi girl who negotiated with her father and agreed to undergo an illegal female circumcision procedure if he would let her go to school. Engaged by the age of 5, Kakenya Ntaiya, was groomed by her family to be a perfect wife, to work in the fields and care for children. But she wanted more, and without even knowing a world outside her village, she begged, negotiated and ultimately traded her health to get it. After completing high school, she negotiated with her entire village to send her to college in the U.S. She left her Maasi village, but she did not forget her roots.
With her college degree in hand, Ntaiya returned to her village and negotiated with her community once again to establish a school for girls. The Kakenya Center for Excellence was established in 2009 with 32 students. The school's curriculum focuses on academics, leadership and female empowerment, along with cultural preservation and life skills. It is the first and only primary school for girls in this region of Kenya.
Ntaiya's story is nothing short of amazing. I'm glad that my daughter cannot even comprehend this world. I know that makes us both very lucky.
Check out Kakenya Ntaiya's incredible TED talk below:
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