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Aid for Africa Girls Education Fund Spotlight–Catherine Koyiah

Catherine Timanoi Koyiah

Catherine Koyiah, College Sophomore: Beating the Odds

Each year in Sub Saharan Africa, millions of girls fail to reach their potential. Barriers to education are often to blame. These barriers include the fees and costs of supplies needed to attend school. Although low when compared to costs in the United States, they are high when you consider  the average Kenyan family earns less than two dollars a day. These financial barriers bar girls, and boys, from  primary and high school, and make attending college  virtually impossible.  Often, if families have enough money to send a child to school, they choose a son.

Catherine Timanoi Koyiah is the exception. The oldest of five children born to an illiterate mother and father from Kenya’s Maasai tribe,  21-year-old Catherine is completing her second year at the University of Nairobi, where she is studying Nutrition. The Maasai are among the poorest people in Africa and have the lowest rates of education. Barbara Shaw, founder of the Maasai Girls Education Fund, estimates that less than 1 percent of Maasai girls make it to college.

Tradition would have had Catherine married to an older man in exchange for a few cows worth about what the family earns in a year–less than $500. One year at the University of Nairobi costs  $2,250.

The Aid for Africa Girls Education Fund is dedicated to helping girls like Catherine achieve their dreams of education. The fund supports member charities that provide scholarships for girls and young women to attend school – from primary school through college – and have control over their futures. The Fund covers Catherine’s full tuition and provides a stipend for living expenses so that she can focus on maintaining her 3.5 GPA. “I am not ready to be someone’s wife,” she said. “I would like to achieve my academic goals and change the living standard of our family.”
When she graduates, Catherine will join notable University alumni including prominent doctors; heads of World Health Organization and United Nations projects; the late Professor Wangari Maathai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004; and founder of Aid for Africa member  Greenbelt Movement International, a powerful organization that mobilizes communities around environmental protection, women’s rights and civic engagement.

The Aid for Africa Girls Education Fund is part of a larger dialogue about access to quality education worldwide. By contributing to the Fund, you can empower young women like Catherine to break the cycle of poverty and fulfill their potential.