Charlotte Bourdillon (Kakenya Center for Excellence – KCE): In the summer of 2009, Charlotte worked with an indigenous women's weaving group in Temuco, Chile. She received her B.A. in Community Health and International Relations from Tufts University in 2010. Prior to her AP fellowship, Charlotte also worked with a health and community-led development initiative in Haiti, called RESPE:Ayiti. Charlotte also interned at Physicians for Human Rights in Cambridge, MA. After her fellowship Charlotte wrote: “I can look at so many deliverables that I am proud of; things I am especially happy to have been able to achieve in the low-resource area I was working in."
In Kenya, there is a brewing but less noticed hunger crisis (and not only in the drought-affected northern areas). This CNN World article explains that prices in Kenya have risen faster than the global levels, and that Kenya’s problems have “been exacerbated by other factors, such as high fuel costs to transport food, the weak Kenyan shilling and maize export bans by neighboring countries” such as Tanzania, which recently imposed its own maize export ban to preserve domestic food security. In addition, because of the drought in the north, there is simply less food, and much of what little remains is being bought up to improve food security in the north.
One year in prison and a six hundred dollar fine for cutting off your daughter’s genitals by force and forcibly marrying her as a 13 year old. Is that punishment enough to deter? Not at all. The damage done to a girl through circumcision and forced marriage can be a lifetime challenge, a lifetime sentence, compared to the meager punishment for those who contravene the law.
On Wednesday I met another captivating figure in the anti-FGM scene. Paul Ole Sire might at first glance seem to be a patriarch steeped in tradition; he is a man with 4 wives and 24 children, after all. Yet he is perhaps one of Enoosaen’s most interesting agents of change for the oppressive cultural traditions towards female children.
Today an unusual sight rolled into Enoosaen as truckload of computers donated by HP arrived at the doorstep of the town’s two girls’ schools. The Enoosaen Boys’ Secondary School has had a computer lab for years, reinforcing the inequality in the local educational system that girls face.
I almost involuntarily followed the sounds of beats and exultant chants coming from the stairwell. There I found a legion of girls like Maasai Kakenya, above, banging out rhythms with sticks and hands and the jerrycans with which they fetch water from the river.
I wanted to empower the permanent members of this project rather than interrupt the systems that may already work for them. The funny thing is I’ve spent a month now learning, watching, and listening, and I no longer hold the naïve belief that not stepping on toes is always compatible with moving a project in the right direction.
Role models like Kakenya and model schools like the KCE change the idea of education and motivate a community to raise educated girls. Parents, Kakenya says, “see that it is possible and everybody wants the same thing for their daughters.” I am so eager to see what this looks like in practice.