An uplifting talk from Kenyan education activist Kakenya Ntaiya provided food for thought and reason for gratitude at Brigidine College Randwick’s breakfast to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Close to 1,000 students and significant women in their lives, including their mothers and grandmothers, attended the event.

Dr Ntaiya spoke about how she negotiated a return to school with her father after undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) in preparation for marriage in her early teen years, completed a PhD in education in the United States, and founded organisation Kakenya’s Dream to help educate and empower girls in her home country.

Year 12 students Ella Rigg and Rachel George were among the student leaders who organised the breakfast in line with the 2020 International Women’s Day theme ‘each for equal’.

They also sold beaded bracelets made by Kenyan women to support the projects founded by Kakenya that aim to abolish traditional practices like FGM, which affects up to 80 per cent of girls in Kenyan villages, and give them access to further education.

“The bracelets are also a reminder across the school that we should not take our education for granted and should strive for greatness and dream big,” said Ella, who migrated from South Africa to Australia at age 7.

“What Kakenya has done for the whole Brigidine community is inspire us. We’re hoping to become a sister school to the school in Kenya, do some exchanges and connect more. This will give the girls in Kenya opportunities to come here and see a different society.”

The bracelets are a reminder … that we should not take our education for granted.

– Ella Rigg

Rachel said though education and work were the main areas inequality was still visible between men and women and women in different parts of the world, Kakenya’s talk was a reminder to act on inequality in all areas.

“There are so many aspects in society that are not equal that we should stand up to make a change,” she said.

“This was a good way for our college and the wider community to come together and recognise how women are so important in society, how society has evolved, and how we empower each other when we come together and encourage and support each other.”

Rachel said her school also partnered with a local Ronald McDonald house to tutor children who have been ill, through a program called homework heroes.

She chose to write about another education activist, Malala Yousafzai, as part of classwork on the International Women’s Day theme.  The world’s youngest Nobel Laureate came to global attention after a Taliban soldier shot her for speaking out against a ban on girls attending school in Pakistan in 2012.

“Girls here are very privileged with their education,” Rachel said. “I feel we need to be more grateful for what we have because there are people in other countries who don’t have as much as we do, and we don’t realize how different it is.”