Ledaiki Ann Nailantei
Ann, now training with the Kenyan Wildlife Service (one of only two women selected in the entirety of Kenya), was orphaned while young and raised by her uncle. She struggled to stay in school as her female peers slowly dropped out.
With the help of the program, Ann persevered and graduated high school in 2013. Ann has interned at the Namelok Youth Community Trust, assisting with women’s groups.
Ann decided to study Community Wildlife Management at the Kenya Wildlife Training Institute. The Institute in known for its hands-on approach to learning, and Ann has already acquired a great deal of experience. She has had the unique experience of visiting some of Kenya’s most beautiful parks including Mt. Kenya National Park, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park, and the Mombasa Marine Reserve.
Ann wants to educate and mobilize her community to be accountable for the wildlife that is so plentiful in their region. She hopes to bring new ideas to conservation and eco tourism.
Hellen Naipanoi Kipaili
Hellen lost her mother at an early age, and was raised by her father and step-mother. She has struggled with severe asthma since childhood, which has made educational perseverance all the more difficult.
She graduated from high school with the other women in the program, and spent the few months before university enrollment teaching at a local primary school.
Hellen decided to study Gender and Development because she hopes to help eradicate the discrimination against women and girls that she has witnessed all her life.
She is a Bachelor of Arts student enrolled at Egerton Univeristy, taking courses on gender theory; communication skills; reproductive health; and HIV/AIDS, gender and sexuality.
Hellen is inspired by the work of Dr. Damaris Parsitau, the Director of the Gender Institute at her university. Dr. Parsitau, also a Maasai, is an example of someone who overcame the many obstacles facing their people.
Joy Kakenya Barta
Kakenya was born to a humble faming family in a district plagued by land access and border disputes. Her family often lost livestock due to the unrest in the area. Kakenya and her mother fought for Kakenya to avoid FGM and an early marriage. She was also forced to overcome serious health issues and had several surgeries during high school.
Despite these difficulties, Kakenya stayed in school and was involved in sports and the science team. After completing high school, Kakenya enrolled in a computer course to help prepare her for entering university. At the end of the course, Kakenya began an internship at the Corporate Social Responsibility Office of the Lake Elementaita Hotel and Lodge. Working on community-based projects cemented Kakenya’s desire to work for social justice.
Kakenya is now a student at Mt. Kenya University, focusing on Communications and Journalism. Kakenya was driven by, what she saw as the lack of positive representation of Maasai people in the media. She hopes to increase their visibility and work to have the voices of her community members heard.
Kakenya is enjoying classes in Radio Production, Computer Skills, the History of Communication, Print Media, Mass Communication, and Public Relations. She has already gained proficiency in writing articles, photography and public speaking. She is looking forward to gaining more experience in editing.
She admires Mohammed Ali, a celebrated Kenyan photojournalist who died documenting the humanitarian struggles in areas ridden by drought and violence and hopes that her work will have the same kind of impact.
Sabina Tumeki Siankoi
Sabina is the youngest child in a very large family. Her father passed away when she was young, and her mother struggled to raise the children on her own. Sabina and her mother fought against Sabina’s uncles, who wished to sell her into an early marriage.
After high school, Sabina volunteered at an adult education center, teaching reading and writing, while caring for her mother, who was ill at the time.
Sabina has chosen to study Gender, Women, and Development at Egerton University. She feels that understanding traditional gender roles has helped her to see how few opportunities there are for women in her community. Sabina hopes that her studies will prepare her for advocacy work in the non-profit sector, so that she may open the doors for other young women from her community.
Sabina is taking classes in Gender and Community, Gender Theory, Gender & Reproductive Health, Women’s Studies, and Technology and interns with the Indigenous Information Network (IIN) in Nairobi.
Sabina sees the impact that information can have on a community and believes that she has already seen the possibility for change where people are informed.
Elizabeth Kironua Sakuda
Elizabeth lost both of her parents when she was young. Despite this great loss, Elizabeth was determined to pursue her education and is a diligent student with a self-professed passion for reading and thirst for knowledge.
After graduating high school, Elizabeth spent a summer as an intern with the Ewangan Renewable Energy Center, which provides wind and solar energy to power nearby homes and schools. Elizabeth also volunteered at the Olosho-Oibor Safe House, a refuge for young girls who are orphaned or escaping Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Elizabeth is now a student at Kenyatta University where she is pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science. Elizabeth was drawn to the field because she has witnessed firsthand how the deleterious effects of climate change and the growth of the extractive industries have impacted her community and their land.
Elizabeth feels that not only has she learned about the environment and her role as one of its stewards, but she also believes that attending college has a greater benefit. She has been able to meet other young women from across the country, including other Maasais, and she is even more determined to complete her education. She became a member of the Maa student group, a collective of Maasai students that encourages dialogue about creative solutions to the problems faced by their people.
Elizabeth has expressed some interest in a second degree, in social work, as she is would like to do more to help the women and girls in her community.
Rehema Emmanuel Hotee
Rehema is a strong student who has always excelled in school. She completed high school a year ahead of her peers in the program. She enrolled in a computer course to gain additional skills and experience while waiting to apply to university.
Unfortunately, during this interim, Rehema was abducted by a suitor unknown to her for marriage in a practice that is troublingly common in Parakuiyio culture. Rehema’s parents did not know the identity of the man, and it took program mentors several weeks to find her, at which point she was already married.
Rehema was forced to abandon her education, as her husband was not supportive of her returning to school. Rehema later became pregnant, but after a devastating miscarriage, Rehema gained the strength to tell her husband that she wanted to return to the program. Her program mentor negotiated with him, and he consented to let Rehema go. He has said that he will support her decision to leave for university.
She moved in with the program mentor, who helped her apply to university. With her high test scores still valid, Rehema was accepted to the University of Iringa, where she has rededicated herself to her studies and is focusing on Community Development as a way to promote the rights of women.
Martha Lazaro Rokonga
Martha’s family has always had difficulty supporting her education. She is very committed to her studies and has spoken of returning to her village after completing her degree so that she can serve as a role model; Martha does not want to see other girls becoming victims of retrogressive cultural practices.
Martha struggled with her health during high school and was hospitalized for pneumonia. Despite these obstacles, Martha completed high school and passed her national exams. She enrolled in a computer course while she began applying to university.
During this time, Martha’s parents – without her knowledge – organized for her to be married. This emerged just as she prepared to leave for the computer course in Morogoro. The suitor had already paid the bride price and a date of the marriage was set.
When Martha learned of the arrangement, she was devastated, and she contacted her program mentor. The mentor was able to speak with the appropriate authorities who intervened on Martha’s behalf. The government gave her parents a stern warning and they are not supportive of Martha continuing in the program.
She completed her computer course and is now enrolled at the University of Iringa where she is studying community development.