A community of optimists hosted by Melinda French Gates

Engaged at age five years old, Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) as a young teenager in preparation for marriage. Her life was set to follow the traditional Maasai path of ending school to become a wife and mother, but Dr. Ntaiya had a different dream. She negotiated with her father to return to school after surviving FGM. When she was accepted to college in the United States, she promised to use her education to help the village in exchange for their support. She went on to earn her PhD in education at the University of Pittsburgh, and returned to her community to fulfill her promise.

Dr. Ntaiya founded Kakenya’s Dream to educate girls, end harmful traditional practices including FGM and child marriage, and transform rural communities. In 2009, the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE) boarding school opened its doors, serving 30 vulnerable Maasai girls in rural Kenya. Today, Kakenya's Dream reaches thousands of girls, boys, and community members each year through three visionary, girl-centered programs. Dr. Ntaiya is a CNN Hero and National Geographic Emerging Explorer. She received the Feminist Majority Global Women's Rights Award and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award. Ntaiya was also named one of Newsweek's "150 Women Who Shake the World."


If you could go on a long walk with anyone, who would it be?

Oprah Winfrey, because I want to know what inspires her.

On Sunday afternoons, you can find me…

Spending time with my two lovely boys. You often find us at the local farm on Sundays visiting with the animals—goats are our favorite.

What books are on your nightstand?

The Bible, and whatever book I'm reading that month. Right now, I'm reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do WHat We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

Please share a favorite quote.

“If you educate a man, you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a generation.” - African proverb/often attributed to Dr. James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey