By Nicole Gismondo and Lisa Lewis:
During the week of International Women’s Day, Western Sydney University hosted Dr Kakenya Ntaiya on Kingswood campus. Dr Ntiaya is a champion of girl’s education in Kenya, starting a female boarding school to help change the harsh realities of child marriage. Incredibly, during the event Denise Kirkpatrick, Western Sydney University’s Deputy-Vice Chancellor and Vice President, revealed a life-changing scholarship will be offered to one of Dr Ntaiya’s first graduates.
Dr Ntaiya’s story is one of bargains, passion and being bold for change, the theme for IWD this year. After first being engaged at age 7, she traded ritual Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) for further education. Although Dr Ntaiya was offered a scholarship to study in America, she had to overcome adversity and convince the village men to sponsor her travel costs.
Upon return to Kenya, Dr Ntaiya launched her very own girl’s school, Kakenya’s Centre for Excellence (KCE). Dr Ntaiya highlighted the girls faced a variety of challenges, including avoiding FGM, juggling their school work with domestic responsibilities and the realities of being physical assaulted on their journey to school. To give her students a “chance to be children” Dr Ntaiya made KCE a boarding school.
Now with its first graduating students, Dr Ntaiya said that “each girl has a story” indicating her pride in each of the girls. She was so pleased to be able to send one to Western Sydney University. Despite a lack of female role models in Kenya, the video presentation illustrated the young students are overcoming insurmountable odds and striving for success.
Opening the event were both University Elder, Aunty Jean, and Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Denise Kirkpatrick. Auntie Jean spoke about the realities of the “smoky ceiling” for Indigenous women, calling for all women to band together in support of each other’s disadvantage, particularly Indigenous women. Kirkpatrick emphasised the university’s commitment to social justice, herself making the announcement about the brand-new scholarship.
Kirkpatrick highlighted that for girls in certain parts of the world “education still isn’t something they know to fight for, or expect to be part of their life.” She continued to encourage all graduates at Western to not just take jobs, but make jobs, and be the change in the world they want to see.