Kakenya Ntaiya, of the Kenyan Maasai, became engaged to be married at the age of 5, in exchange for seven cows. It was her duty then to learn everything that she must do to be a good wife before her wedding, which would occur when she was around 13 years old. Her mother, aunts and grandmother would remind her often of her duty by pointing as the boy passed, telling her, “You see? There goes your husband.”
Kakenya, however, craved learning of a different kind. She loved her classes at school and desperately wanted to continue her education through high school. She dreamed that she might even be able to become a teacher herself one day, and escape the hard life that she knew awaited her as a typical Maasai woman. So, in desperation, she made a choice to give up a piece of her body, willingly, in exchange for the hope of a future. She convinced her father to allow her to go to high school, if in return she would allow herself to undergo her culture’s traditional female genital mutilation ceremony.
At 13, while her village watched, without anesthesia, a rusty old knife sealed her fate. Three weeks later, she had healed enough to attend school.
After she graduated, she was given a full scholarship to a university in America and managed to convince 17 elders, all men, one at a time, to let her go. This time her price was a promise that she would return and be a value to her community.
She did return and once more used her wit and intelligence to win the men over to yet another idea. She began a school for girls in her village. To date, 125 young women have been spared the knife and given hope for a bright future.
As Kekenya says, these girls will, “be stepping on my shoulders to move up the ladder—they’re not going to start on the bottom.”
Let nothing stop you.
Listen to Kekenya’s store in her own words HERE.