I arrived in America … I found snow. I found Walmart, vacuum cleaners, and lots of food in the cafeteria … But during that moment, while I was here, I discovered a lot of [other] things. I learned that that ceremony that I went through when I was 13 years old, it was called female genital mutilation. I learned that it was against the law in Kenya. I learned that I did not have to trade part of my body to get an education. I had a right. And as we speak right now, 3 million girls in Africa are at risk for undergoing mutilation.

…Those things made me angry. I wanted to do something. As I went back, every time I went I found that my neighbors’ girls were getting married; they were getting mutilated; and here…the constant cries of those girls was on my face. I had to do something … I started to talking to the men of the village and mothers, and I said, “I want to give back, the way that I had promised you, that I would come back and help you. What do you need?”

As I [spoke] to the women, they told me, “You know what we need? We really need a school for girls,” because there had not been any schools for girls. And the reason they wanted the school for girls was because when a girl is raped when she is walking to school, the mother is blamed for that. If she got pregnant before she got married, the mother is blamed for that. And she’s punished. She’s beaten.

They said, “We want to put our girls in a safe place.”

I went to talk to the fathers. And the fathers, as you can imagine, they said, “We want a school for boys.” And I said, “Well, there are many men in my village who have been out and they’ve got an education. Why can’t they build a school for boys, and I’ll build a school for girls?”…and they agreed. And I told them I wanted them to show me a sign of commitment. And they did. They donated land, where we built the [first] girls’ school.

From Kakenya Ntaiya’s TEDxMidAtlantic talk, “The first school for Massi girls,” about her fight to attend school as a Massi woman, and how she came to found the first girls’ school in her village in Kenya.
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