Last week, Kakenya’s Dream went to the U.S. Capitol to show support for the Keeping Girls in School Act (KGISA), a bipartisan bill emphasizing the importance of girls’ education around the world and calling on the U.S. government’s foreign assistance to address the barriers that keep more than 130 million girls out of school globally.
Our Founder and President Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya spoke alongside Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL), Mike Quigley, (D-IL), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) on the importance of educating girls throughout the world. Dr. Ntaiya shared with the audience her incredible story on surviving female genital mutilation (FGM), escaping a child marriage, and becoming the first young woman in her community to go to university. She is a true testament to the power of education to transform lives and communities, but there were immense barriers threatening to keep her out of school that she had to navigate; barriers many other girls around the world are still struggling to overcome today.
The same barriers keeping girls out of school in our community in rural Kenya affect the 130 million girls out of school around the world – poverty, child marriage, FGM, safety on the way to school, and harmful social norms that negate the value of educating girls. But if every girl in the world were able to access and attend quality secondary school, it would have enormous impacts. Educating girls could add $92 billion to the economies of low and middle-income nations thus reducing their reliance on foreign assistance, cut child deaths by 50%, reduce child marriage by 66%, and decrease violent conflict by as much as 37%. For every year that a girl stays in secondary school, her future wages also increase up to 20%, which helps her, and any children she may have later to escape the cycle of poverty.
At Kakenya’s Dream, we educate as many girls as we can in our community and empower them to succeed and achieve their dreams. We ensure our girls’ safety from child marriage and FGM, and our boarding school model allows them to avoid spending countless hours doing domestic chores and walking to and from school in sometimes dangerous environments. At our boarding schools, girls also have access to nutritious food, medical staff, counseling, and mentorship, as well as continued social and financial support when they graduate and move on to the next step in their educational journeys. We are seeing real, tangible results in our community, but organizations like Kakenya’s Dream cannot go it alone. We need commitment and collaborative action from the entire global community to ensure girls’ education is prioritized worldwide and the barriers to accessing education are confronted and eliminated.
The Keeping Girls in School Act is a step in this direction. While the global community has seen great gains in gender parity in primary school enrollment in the last decade, gaps still remain at the secondary level. The Keeping Girls in School Act addresses gaps in current policy and practice and brings critical attention to programs and policies supporting adolescent girls’ access to and continued enrollment in quality education by focusing positively on overcoming barriers that stand in their way.
Most importantly, the KGISA emphasizes community-based, grassroots-level programs, which is exactly what Kakenya’s Dream is all about. We understand that the best, most sustainable solutions come from the community itself, which is why all of our programs are developed and run by members of the community, with oversight and advice from local experts. Our grassroots approach guarantees the sustainability of our programs and positive transformations in our community. Through our model, investing in a girl is truly investing in a community.
Kakenya’s Dream strongly supports the passage of the Keeping Girls in School Act and believes that every girl has the right to education. An educated and properly supported girl has the power to reach her full potential and become a leader and change-maker in our world. Imagine the impact if every single one of the 130 million girls out of school today were given the resources and support they needed to complete their education. Our world would be unrecognizably better. It’s our job to make that a reality, and our work begins now.