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Dr Kakenya Ntaiya: Empowering girls and women in education

Hear from global leader Dr Kakenya Ntaiya, scholar, activist and 2021/2022 Senior Fellow at Brown University. Kakenya is the founder of an international nonprofit organisation that seeks to educate girls, end harmful traditional practices including FGM and child marriage, and transform her community.

Engaged at age 5, Dr Kakenya Ntaiya experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) as a young teenager in preparation for early marriage.

Her life was set to follow the traditional Maasai path of ending school to become a wife and mother, but Kakenya had a different dream. She negotiated with her father to return to school after undergoing FGM. When she was accepted to college in the United States, she promised her rural Kenyan community that she would use her education to help the village in exchange for their support. Kakenya went on to earn her PhD in education from the University of Pittsburgh and returned to her community to fulfill her promise.

In this Sydney Ideas event, Kakenya will provide a keynote address on the value and transformative power of education, sharing a rich perspective that is both intimate and personal as it is global and far-reaching. 

Kakenya will then join a conversation with young women who are studying in Sydney, connected to Kakenya's Dream: 

  • Peyian Kortom, final year Bachelor of Science and Liberal Arts student at the University of Sydney
  • Cynthia Naiyoma, first year Bachelor of Nursing student at UTS. 

Dr Kakenya Ntaiya's appearance at this event is supported by Women for Change and this event is co-hosted with the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Program at the University of Sydney.

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Dr Kakenya Ntaiya. Photo supplied courtesy of Women For Change.

Dr Kakenya Ntaiya. Photo supplied courtesy of Women For Change.

About the speaker 

Dr Kakenya Ntaiya founded Kakenya’s Dream to educate girls, end harmful traditional practices including FGM and child marriage, and transform her community. In 2009, the Kakenya Center for Excellence boarding school opened its doors, serving 30 vulnerable Maasai girls. Today, Kakenya’s Dream reaches thousands of young girls, boys, and community members across rural Kenya each year through several holistic, girl-centered programs. 

Kakenya was featured in Bill Gates’ Heroes in the Field series in 2022 and Melinda French Gates’ book, The Moment of Lift in 2019. She is also a proud Top Ten CNN Hero and National Geographic Emerging Explorer. Dr. Ntaiya was honored to receive the Feminist Majority Global Women’s Rights Award from the Feminist Majority Foundation in 2013 and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award in 2008. She was also counted among the Women Deliver 100 Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women.

You can learn more about Kakenya at www.kakenyasdream.org, through her TED Talks “A girl who demanded school” and “Empower a girl, transform a community,” and read about her work in publications such as National Geographic and the Washington Post.

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