Engaged at age 5, Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) as a young teenager in preparation for child marriage. Her life was set to follow the traditional Maasai path of ending school to become a wife and mother, but Dr. Ntaiya 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 she would use her education to serve the village in exchange for their support. She went on to earn her PhD in education from the University of Pittsburgh and returned to her community to fulfill her promise.
Dr. 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 girls. Today, Kakenya’s Dream reaches thousands of young girls, boys, and community members across rural Kenya each year through three holistic, girl-centered programs.
Dr. Ntaiya is a proud CNN Hero Finalist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer. She 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 recognized by Women in the World as a “Woman of Impact,” and named a Top Ten CNN Hero. Dr. Ntaiya was also named one of Newsweek Magazine’s “150 Women Who Shake the World” in 2011 and counted among the Women Deliver 100: The Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women.