Take action: support Kakenya’s efforts to end child marriage in Kenya

Every year, CNN Heroes honours 10 individuals who dedicate their lives to making a difference in their communities, yet rarely get the recognition they deserve. Each receives a prize of $50,000 to help increase the impact of their work.

But it doesn’t stop there. You have the chance to vote for the hero you are most inspired by (a tough choice – they are all fantastic!). The CNN hero with the most votes will be awarded $250,000. Just imagine what a boost to their work this would be!

We are excited to see Kakenya Ntaiya, founder of Girls Not Brides member Kakenya Center for Excellence, nominated as a Top 10 CNN Hero for her work to send girls to school and delay marriage in Enoosaen, a Maasai village in south-west Kenya.

The $250,000 award would do so much to boost efforts to end child marriage in Kenya. But to make this happen, Kakenya needs your help.

Meet Kakenya, a community crusader against child marriage

Engaged at 5 years old, Kakenya underwent female genital cutting (FGC) at the age of 14. A tradition in the Maasai community, the practice marks a girl’s passage into adulthood. Once cut, girls are usually married off. Their education nearly always comes to an end.

I knew that once I went through the cutting, I was going to be married off. And my dream of becoming a teacher was going to end.

Kakenya Ntaiya

“I knew that once I went through the cutting, I was going to be married off. And my dream of becoming a teacher was going to end”, Kakenya told CNN Heroes.

Kakenya made a deal with her father. She would only go through the cutting if she could continue her education and postpone marriage. Her father accepted.

Kakenya excelled at school. After graduating from high school, she attended university on a merit-based scholarship and eventually earned her PhD.

A few years ago, she opened the first primary school for Maasai girls in her home village to help hundreds of girls write their own remarkable stories.

How will girls benefit?

If Kakenya were to be awarded the $250,000, many more girls will be able to go school and avoid early marriage.

When their daughters enrol into Kakenya’s school, parents promise that they will not force their daughters to marry or to go through female genital cutting. The school currently welcomes 155 girls, and none of them are either married or cut.

The Kakenya Center for Excellence is also a boarding school. This is very important for girls because many live too far away to attend school: the distances are too long, the journey too dangerous. The Center offers safe and clean school facilities, quality school supplies, as well as clothing and food.

Girls from surrounding communities benefit from the school too. The Center organises health and leadership summer camps to provide girls who cannot attend school with leadership skills, and knowledge about their bodies and reproductive health.

Just imagine what $250,000 could accomplish – how many girls could avoid marriage, pursue their education and fulfil their ambitions!

To make this happen, you just need to click.

Cast your vote for Kakenya on CNN Heroes’ website.

You can vote every day until November 17th

Tell your friends about it!

Tireless advocate for #girlseducation & #endchildmarriage, Kakenya Ntaiya is my hero. Help her become @CNNheroes 2013 http://t.co/ylPgm7GffW 

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Watch Kakenya’s TEDx talk.

Read her story.