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When a Maasai Girl Graduates, Her Community Benefits
When Abigael Simaloi Pertet finished fifth grade in 2003, she was faced with the possibility that she would not be able to return to school. Her grandparents, who were a source of support, had died, and her mother, who had five children to support, was unable to afford the costs associated with school. She had been unable to attend school herself, so her options for making an income were limited.
Abigael was able to attend sixth grade because of a scholarship from Maasai Girls Education Fund, an Aid for Africa member. She went on to complete high school thanks to the Fund. She worked hard and did well. In 2012 she received a scholarship to EARTH University in Costa Rica, where she will graduate with a degree in agriculture in December.
This September Abigael traveled to Washington, DC, to attend the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit. The Summit, sponsored by public and private organizations, brings together leading experts who are working to advance social and economic well-being of young people. While in Washington, Abigael shared her experiences with other young people and the organizers.
And Abigael had a lot to share. While she was still in secondary school, she started her own charity organization, or NGO, in Kenya. Called Save Our World, it focuses on youth empowerment and environmental conditions in her community in Kajiado, Kenya.
“I wanted to directly and positively affect my community,” Abigael said. “Our NGO works with youth and the county government. We plant donated trees and do community cleanup. Since starting in 2013, we have planted 3,000 trees.”
Following graduation from EARTH University in December 2016, Abigael said that she will return to Kenya to work in her community. She will take up a position with the county government to create and expand sustainable agricultural systems.
According to Tracey Pyles, president of Maasai Girls Education Fund, the fact that Abigael will return to her community in southern Kenya is not unusual for Maasai women. “There is no requirement to go back to the community, but it is part of their culture,” she said.
“Currently, there are 39 young women in Kajiado who have gone beyond secondary school to vocational training and college who have returned to work in this community.”
By next year, Pyles said, there would be 75 young women who were supported by the Maasai Girls Education Fund back in the Kajiado, including nurses, lawyers and doctors. They will be skilled leaders and role models, she said.
Abigael said she can’t wait to return to Kenya and that she is looking forward to starting her new job.
“We feel we have a responsibility to our community,” Abigael said of herself and her peers. “We have to teach our community that it is really productive to teach a girl.”
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Maasai Girls Education Fund currently supports 122 girls and young women from primary through college and beyond. Scholarships are needs-based; once a girl joins the program, she remains until she finishes her education.
Aid for Africa is committed to empowering girls through education. When a girl in Africa gets the chance to go to school and stay in school, the cycle of poverty is broken and things change. Read more about why it is important to educate African girls.