week at our headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic
Society hosts its fourth annual Explorers Symposium, in which our
grantees from around the world present their work and discuss such
topics as educating girls in rural Kenya, sea turtle conservation in
Nicaragua, and developing perennial crops that can flourish with little
or no pesticides or fertilizer. Traveler intern Daniel Bortz is profiling some of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers, whose work today may yield scientific breakthroughs in the future.
Kakenya Ntaiya, at 13 years old, was arranged to be married. Growing up in Enoosen in southern Kenya, Ntaiya was brought up as most young girls from traditional Maasai culture: do the household chores, like cooking and cleaning, while learning how to become a mother. She grew up in a culture where education was a priority for boys — not girls. In her village, men viewed girls as investments, an easy ticket to a dowry in which a daughter’s hand in marriage equates to nine cows, two sheep, and other supplies.
But Ntaiya’s mother wanted more for her daughter. She helped Kakenya convince her father to call off the marriage and let her finish high school and eventually persuaded the male leaders in the community to send her to America, becoming the first girl in her village to pursue an education in the U.S. Now, Ntaiya’s returned to Enoosen to build a school for girls. She wants to see them stay in school and continue their learning — an opportunity her mother and so many Maasai women have been denied.
“These girls have hopes, they have dreams, but they probably won’t realize those dreams because they’ve been denied an opportunity for education,” Ntaiya said Thursday at the Explorers Symposium. “It was so painful for me to go back home and see young girls losing their dreams.”
After breaking ground on Aug. 16, 2008, Kakenya’s Center for Excellence opened last year and welcomed its first class of 30 girls chosen from a pool of 100 applicants.
Read more about the Emerging Explorers after the jump.
and his passion for music at Thursday’s symposium. He performed his hit
song, “Wash Your Hands,” a part of the public health campaign he
started in communities across Mozambique, where more than half the
population lives in extreme poverty without access to basic sanitation.
There, he journeys to some of the poorest remote villages, using music
to engage the community against disease and health problems from poor
- Nat Geo Expeditions
sanitation and hygiene.
His band, the Massukos, crafts its
music to deliver the sanitation message. The Massukos promote low-cost
sanitation that composts human waste into nutrient-rich fertilizers.
They’ve even sung for the president of Mozambique. Santos said, “My
dream was to be a teacher, and my dream has come true: Teaching people
to learn to love music.”
Photo: Courtesy of Kakenya’s Dream