Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Education key to empowering women, says alumna featured on NPR

A National Public Radio show recently highlighted one alumna’s work to improve the lives of girls and women in Kenya.

Kakenya Ntaiya ’04 appeared on the Diane Rehm Show on Tuesday. The show focused on a new World Bank report that demonstrates economic gains from gender equality. The audio archive is available here. (Ntaiya starts speaking shortly after the 21 minute mark.)

Ntaiya agreed that greater equality and education creates ripple effects that improve the world for the next generation. “If you invest in a woman, she is going to invest in her daughters. She is going to invest in her boys. She’s going to bring up a family.”

But that theory supported by the World Bank report needs to be put into practice, she said. “What does that mean to a local woman in my own village who has no access to credit, who has no right to property?” she said. “…To me it's always going back to really empowering women.”

Women can be empowered through education, she said.

Eleven years ago, Ntaiya convinced the elders and others in her village to support her decision to move to the United States to attend Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. While at the College, she often talked about her plans to start a school for girls in her village.

That dream was realized two years ago when the Kakenya Center for Excellence opened. The school now has nearly 100 students, she said in the Diane Rehm Show interview.

“Our aim is to really empower the girls to tell them there are no limits to what they can achieve,” she said.

Ntaiya is finishing graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh and plans to return to Kenya later this year.

Her story has been chronicled in The Washington Post, National Geographic, and other publications.