"Men should also be involved in the fight against harmful cultural practices to make the efforts more successful."
– Gladys Nanyori
Kakenya’s Dream Health and Leadership Training Facilitator
Teacher, Ilpashire Secondary School
Gladys Nanyori, 24, hails from a village called Shankoe in Narok County, Kenya. She was raised by a widowed mother and is the oldest of five siblings. She shares that the loss of her father as a young girl shaped her worldview. She grew up seeing her mother, a subsistence farmer, struggling against all odds to provide for her family. Being the firstborn in the family, Gladys’ mother looked to her to inspire and be a role model for her younger siblings. Gladys happily rose to the challenge, performing well in school and graduating from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology with a degree in education. Today, she teaches math and physics at a nearby high school and has worked with Kakenya’s Dream as a facilitator of our Health and Leadership Training program for the past two years.
Growing up in a traditional, indigenous Maasai community, Gladys says she watched many girls her age forced undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) and get married at a tender age, among them several of her former primary school classmates and friends. She explains, “When a young girl is married so young, most of them end up in bad marriages marred with domestic violence, which might end up in divorce or even death due to gender-based violence.” Unable to sit idly by, her desire to fight against these harmful practices grew and she applied to work with us as a Health and Leadership Training facilitator.
She first learned about our program in 2019 when we introduced it at her former primary school. Gladys says she was drawn in after witnessing its positive impact on both girls and the wider community. To date, she has taught our Health and Leadership Training curriculum in three primary schools across Narok County, drawing on her teaching experience and many successful years mentoring and nurturing her younger siblings.
Gladys educates young girls and boys on highly important, yet taboo issues not often discussed at home or in schools in rural Kenya, including the detrimental effects of FGM and early marriage, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality, and drug and substance abuse. The program also emphasizes developing youth leadership, self-advocacy, and life skills, and building a healthy self-esteem.
Gladys observes that in addition to filling a critical knowledge gap for girls and boys navigating the complexities of adolescence, there have also been promising behavior changes among students in schools where she’s taught our Health and Leadership Trainings. She observes that rivalry and hostility between boys and girls is declining, while empathy and a sense of personal responsibility and accountability to their peers and loved ones is on the rise. Gladys shares that these promising developments give her hope for a future in which the Maasai community will fully embrace gender equality and reject practices perpetuating violence against women and girls for good.