Kakenya Ntaiya, Founder and President of the Kakenya Center for Excellence

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Read a reflection article by Writing Fellow Jessica Oh.

Empowering Girls, Transforming Communities: The Power of Grassroots Leadership

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya’s life was supposed to follow a traditional path. Engaged at age 5, the expectation was that she would then leave school and marry, but Kakenya had a different plan. She negotiated with the village elders to do what no girl had ever done: leave her Maasai village to go to college in the United States, promising to use her education to benefit the community. She went on to earn her PhD in education.

Kakenya is now fulfilling her promise to her community. In 2009, she founded Kakenya’s Dream, an international non-profit organization leveraging education to empower vulnerable girls and uplift rural communities in Kenya. Today, Kakenya’s Dream is transforming communities, changing social norms, and empowering thousands of girls through its three programs: the all-girls’ Center for Excellence boarding schools, Health and Leadership Trainings, and the Network for Excellence,which supports boarding school alumnae as they continue their education in high school and beyond.

Kakenya was honored to receive the Global Women’s Rights Award from the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Vital Voices Leadership Award. She was named a Top Ten CNN Hero in 2013, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2010, and one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Shake the World” in 2011. Kakenya’s story and vision is captured in her inspiring TED Talk, aired in 2013, which has more than 2.3 million views.