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My Journey to Start a School for Girls in Kenya: Kakenya Ntaiya at TEDxMidAtlantic

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    There's a group of people in Kenya,
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    people cross oceans to go see them.
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    These people are tall, they jump high,
    they wear red and they kill lions.
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    You might be wondering,
    who are those people?
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    These are the Maasais.
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    And you know what's cool?
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    I'm actually one of them.
    (Laughter)
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    The Maasais, the boys are brought up
    to be warriors,
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    the girls are brought up to be mothers.
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    When I was five years old,
    I found out that I was engaged,
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    to be married as soon as I reach puberty.
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    My mother, my grandmother, my aunties,
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    they constantly reminded me
    that, "Your husband just passed by."
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    (Laughter)
    Cool, yeah?
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    And everything I had to do from that moment
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    was to prepare me to be
    a perfect woman at the age of 12.
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    My day started at five in the morning,
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    milking the cows, sweeping the house,
    cooking for my siblings,
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    collecting water, fire wood.
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    I did everything that I needed to do,
    to become a perfect wife
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    I went to school not because
    the Maasai women all go to school.
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    It's because my mother
    was denied an eduction
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    and she constantly reminded
    me and my siblings that,
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    she never wanted us
    to live the life she was living.
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    Why did she say that?
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    My father worked
    as a policemen in the city,
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    he came home once a year, we didn't see him
    for sometimes even 2 years.
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    And whenever he came home,
    it was a different case.
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    My mother worked hard in the farm
    to grow crop so that we can eat,
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    she read the cows and the goats
    so that she can care for us.
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    But when my father came,
    he would sell the cows,
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    he would sell the products we had
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    and he went and drank
    with his friends in the bars.
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    Becasue my mother a women,
    she was not allowed to own any property
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    and by default everything in my family,
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    anyway, belonged to my father
    so he had the right.
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    And if my mother ever questioned him,
    he'd beat her, abused her
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    and really, it was difficult.
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    When I went to school, I had a dream,
    I wanted to become a teacher.
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    Teachers looked nice, they wear
    nice dresses, high-heeled shoes --
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    I found later that they were
    uncomfortable, but I admired it.
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    (Laughter)
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    But most of all, the teacher
    was just writing on the board --
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    not hard work, that's what I thought,
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    compared to what I was doing at the farm,
    so I wanted to become a teacher.
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    I worked hard in school,
    but when I was an eight grader,
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    it was a determining factor.
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    In our tradition, there's a ceremony that girls
    have to undergo to become a woman.
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    And it's a right of passage to womanhood.
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    And then I was just finishing my eight grade
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    and that was a transition
    for me to go to higschool,
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    this was the crossroad.
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    Once I go through this tradtion
    I was going to become a wife.
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    Well, my dream of becoming a teacher
    will not come to pass.
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    So I had to come up with a plan
    to figure these things out.
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    I talked to my father, I did something
    that most girls have never done.
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    I told my father, I will only go through this
    ceremony if you'l let me go back to school.
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    The reason why, if I ran away, my father will
    have a stigma, people will be calling him,
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    "The father of that girl who
    didn't go through the ceremony."
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    It was a shameful thing for him
    to carry the rest of his life.
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    So he figured out - well, he said,
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    "OK, you'll go to school
    after the ceremony."
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    I did. The ceremony happenned,
    it's a whole week long of excitments.
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    It's a ceremony, people are enjoying.
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    And the day before
    the actual ceremony happens,
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    we were dancing, having exceitments
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    and through all the night,
    we did not sleep.
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    The actual day came
    and we walked out of the house
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    and we were dancing,
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    as we danced and danced
    and we walked out of the courtyard
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    and there were a bunch of people waiting,
    they were all in a circle.
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    And as we dance and dance,
    and we approach this circle of women -
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    men, women, children everybody was there.
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    There was a women
    sitting in the middle of it
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    and this women was waiting to hold us,
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    and I was the first, there were my sisters
    and a couple of other girls.
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    As I approach her, she looked at me
    and I sat down and I opened my legs.
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    As I opened my leg, another women came,
    and this women was carrying a knife.
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    And she carried the knife
    she walked towards me,
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    and she held my clitoris,
    and she cut it off.
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    As you can imagine, I bled. I bled.
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    After bleeding for a while,
    I fainted there after.
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    It's something that so many girls -
    I'm lucky I never died, but many die.
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    It's practice with no anaesthesia,
    it's a rusty old knife
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    and it was difficult.
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    I was lucky because my mom
    did something that most women don't do
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    three days later,
    after everybody has left the home
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    my mom went and brought a nurse.
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    We were taken care of,
    three weeks later I was healed
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    and I was back in high school.
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    I was so determined to be a teacher now
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    so that I can make a difference
    in my family.
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    Well, while I was in high school,
    something happened,
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    I met another young gentlemen
    from our village
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    who had been to the university of Oregon.
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    This man was wearing
    a white T-shirt, jeans, a camera,
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    white sneakers -
    and I'm talking about white sneakers.
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    There's something about clothes I think
    and shoes. (Laughter)
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    And this was in a village
    that didn't even have paved roads,
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    it was quite attractive.
    (Laughter)
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    I told him, "I want to go
    to where you are,"
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    because this man looked very happy
    and I admired that.
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    And he told me,
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    "Well, what do you mean you want to go,
    don't you have a husband waiting for you?"
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    And I told him,
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    "Don't worry about that part,
    just tell me how to get there."
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    This gentlemen, he helped me.
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    While I was in school also,
    my dad was sick, he got a stroke -
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    and he was really sick so he really
    couldn't tell me what to do next.
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    But the problem is my father
    is not the only father I have.
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    Everybody who is my dad's age, male,
    in the community, is my father by default.
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    My uncles, all of them,
    they dictate what my future is.
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    So the news came,
    and I applied to school
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    and I was accepted to Randolph-Macon
    Woman's College, In Lynchburg, Virginia
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    and I couldn't come
    without the support of the village
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    because I needed to raise money
    to buy the air ticket.
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    I got a scholarship,
    but I needed to get myself here.
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    But I needed the support of the village
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    and here again,
    when the men, the people heard
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    that a women had gotten
    an opportunity to go to school
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    they said, "What a lost opportunity,
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    this should have been given to a boy
    we can't do this."
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    So I went back,
    and I had to go back to the tradition.
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    There's a belief among our people
    that morning brings good news.
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    So, I had I to come up with something
    to do with the morning
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    because there's good news in the morning.
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    And in the village also there's one chief
    or person, male, an elder
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    if he says "Yes,"everybody
    will follow him.
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    So I went to him, very early
    in the morning, as the sun had rised,
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    the first thing that he sees
    when he opens his door is me.
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    "My child, what are you doing here?"
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    "Well Dad, I need help, can you support me
    to go to America?"
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    I promised him that I'll be the best girl,
    I will come back
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    anything they wanted after that,
    I will do it for them.
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    He said, "Well, but I can't do it alone."
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    He gave me a list of other 15 men
    that I went, 16 more men.
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    Every single morning
    I went and visited them.
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    They all came together - the village,
    the women, the men.
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    Everybody came together to support me
    to come, to get an education.
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    I arrived in America,
    as you can imagine, what did I find?
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    (Laughter)
    I found snow,
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    I found Walmart,
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    vacuum cleaners
    and lots of food in the cafeteria.
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    I was in a land of plenty.
    I enjoyed myself,
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    but during that moment while I was here,
    I discovered a lot of things
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    I learned that, that ceremony that I went
    through when I was 13 years old
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    was called female genital mutilation.
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    I learned that it was against the law
    in Kenya,
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    I learned that, I did not have to trade
    part of my body
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    to get and eduction, I had a right!
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    And as we speak right now,
    three million girls in Africa
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    are at risk of undergoing through
    this mutilation.
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    I learned that my mom
    had a right to own property,
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    I learned that did not have to abused
    because she was a women.
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    Those things made me angry.
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    I wanted to do something.
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    Every time I went back, I found
    that my neighbours' girls
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    were getting married,
    they were getting mutilated.
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    And after I graduated from here,
    I worked at the UN, I went back to school
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    to get my graduate work, the constant cry
    of these girls was on my face.
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    I had to do something.
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    As I went back, I started
    talking to the men,
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    to the village, and mothers and I said,
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    "I want to give back
    the way I had promised you
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    that I would come back and help you.
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    What do you need?"
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    As I spoke to the women, they told me,
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    "You know what we need?
    We really need a school for girls."
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    Because there had not been
    any schools for girls.
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    And the reason they wanted
    the school for girls
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    is because when a girl is raped
    when she's walking to school
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    the mother is blamed for that.
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    If she got pregnant
    before she got married,
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    the mother is blamed for that
    and she's punished, she's beaten.
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    They said, "We wanted to put our girls
    in a safe place."
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    As we moved,
    and I went to talk to the fathers,
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    he fathers of course,
    you can imagine what they said,
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    "We want a school for boys."
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    And I said, well, there are a couple
    of many men from my village
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    who had been out
    and they've got an education
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    why can't they build a school for boys
    and I'll build a school for girls?
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    That made sens and they agreed.
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    And I told them, I wanted them to show me
    a sign of commitment
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    and they did.
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    They donated land where we build
    the girls' school, we have.
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    I want you to meet
    one of the girls in that school.
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    Angelene came to apply for the school
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    and she did not meet
    any criterias that we had.
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    She's an orphan, yes.
    We could have taken her for that,
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    but she was 12 years old
    and we were taking in girls
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    who were in the fourth grade.
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    Everybody were telling us Angelene
    had been moving from one place,
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    because she's an orphan,
    she has no mother, she has no father,
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    moving from one grandmother's house
    to another one
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    from aunties to aunties,
    she had no stability in her life.
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    And people said, and I looked at her
    I remembered that day,
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    and I saw something beyond
    what I was seeing in Angelene
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    and yes she was older
    to be in fourth grade,
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    we gave her the opportunity
    to come the class.
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    Five months later, there is Angelene.
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    A transformation had begun in her life
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    Angelene wants to be a pilot
    so she can fly around the world
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    and [make] a difference.
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    She was not the top student
    when we took her,
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    now she's the best student
    not just in our school,
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    but in the entire division that we are in.
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    She's showing different, that's Sharon,
    that's five years later,
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    that's Avaleen, five months later,
    that's the difference that we are making
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    As a new dawn is happening in my school
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    A new beginning is happening,
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    as we speak right now
    125 girls will never be mutilated.
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    125 girls will not be married
    when they are 12 years old.
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    125 girls are creating
    and achieving their dreams.
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    This is the thing that we are doing -
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    giving them opportunities
    so they can rise.
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    As we speak right now,
    women are not being beaten
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    because of the revolutions
    we've started in our community.
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    (Applause)
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    I want to challenge you today
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    you're listening to me because
    you are here very optimistic.
  • 14:01 - 14:05
    You are somebody who is so passionate
  • 14:05 - 14:09
    You are somebody who wants
    to see a better world.
  • 14:09 - 14:12
    You are somebody who wants to
    see the war end.
  • 14:12 - 14:13
    No poverty.
  • 14:13 - 14:16
    You are somebody who wants to
    make a difference.
  • 14:16 - 14:19
    You are somebody who wants to
    make our tomorrow better.
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    I want to challenge today
    to be there first -
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    because people will follow you.
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    Be the first - people will follow you
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    Be bold - standup.
  • 14:31 - 14:32
    Be fearless.
  • 14:32 - 14:34
    Be confident.
  • 14:34 - 14:37
    Move out because
    as you change your world,
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    as you change your community,
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    as we believe we are impacting
    one girl, one family,
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    one village, one country at a time.
  • 14:47 - 14:49
    We are making a difference.
  • 14:49 - 14:52
    So if you change your world,
    you're going to change your community,
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    you're going to change your country.
  • 14:54 - 14:57
    And think about that,
    if you do that and I do that,
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    aren't we going to create a better future,
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    for our children, for your children,
    for our grandchildren,
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    and we will live in a very peaceful world.
  • 15:05 - 15:07
    Thank you very much.
  • 15:07 - 15:21
    (Applause)
Title:
My Journey to Start a School for Girls in Kenya: Kakenya Ntaiya at TEDxMidAtlantic
Description:

Kakenya Ntaiya was set to follow the traditional path of all girls born in the small village of Enoosaen, Kenya of marrying in a young age and being circumcised. In this talk, she describes how she decided to change that reality for other girls.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
15:42

English subtitles

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