“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” -Gloria Steinem
March 8 marks International Women’s Day, a day to recognize and celebrate world leaders, activists, and advocates around the world that are fighting for an equal society. This year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme is #EachforEqual, focusing on ‘collective individualism’ and the impact that each person’s individual actions have on creating a better world for all. At Kakenya’s Dream, we know the power of a single person to create immense change for the betterment of society. After all, it’s because of the extraordinary dreams and achievements of Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya that Kakenya’s Dream exists today. When combined, efforts like these around the world form a critical mass necessary to move the needle on gender equality.
At Kakenya’s Dream, we believe that International Women’s Day is more than just a chance to celebrate the leaders who shaped our past; it’s a chance to recognize, mentor, and support the next generation of changemakers who will carry the work forward and build a better future. Our girls in rural Kenya will one day make up this next generation of leaders, and we’re doing our part to show them that inside each and every one of them is unshakable strength, infinite power, and a voice that deserves to be heard.
Our Center for Excellence boarding schools (KCE I and II) and Health and Leadership Trainings provide essential education and skills training on subjects such as human rights, leadership, advocacy, and public speaking. By combining access to important information with training on how to properly utilize and disseminate that information to educate the people around them, our students are informed and empowered to advocate for themselves and others.
Our approach creates a powerful ripple effect. Ninth grader Purity says that ever since entering our school, “I always advise my peers on the negative effects that come along with female genital mutilation [FGM] and early marriage.” Purity is the perfect example of the scale of the impact education has. Our program participants are encouraged to take what they’ve learned from our programs and share with their parents, siblings, neighbors, and friends. Like Purity, her ninth grade classmate Yvonne says, “I try to create awareness about gender equality and its importance amongst my peers.” We estimate that for every girl like Purity or Yvonne that we educate at our boarding schools, and every young person that takes part in our Health and Leadership Trainings, they share what they learn with at least three others. Through this multiplier effect, Kakenya’s Dream and the youth we educate are collectively challenging traditional norms, fighting stigma and bias, and transforming mindsets on a wider scale in communities across rural Kenya.
Our Health and Leadership Trainings also involve and educate boys because we know that progress can’t be achieved if boys grow up perpetuating the same harmful norms and mindsets that have held women back for generations. In our community, many issues affecting women and girls, like FGM, child marriage, menstruation, and education and economic inequality are never talked about openly and thus boys are typically unaware of the barriers their female peers face. Including boys in these trainings allows them to learn, often for the first time, about the challenges their female peers face and gives them the opportunity to be better allies and advocates.
When discussing the importance of International Women’s Day, one of our students Lilian said, “gender equality is important because it will help girls to succeed in their lives. It helps girls realize that they too can become doctors, pilots, scientists, and even presidents in their country.” At Kakenya’s Dream, we strive for a gender equal world every day by educating and empowering the next generation of women who will change our world. We are #GenerationEquality and we will not give up on an equal future.