Dr Kakenya Ntaiya with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Dr Ntaiya meets Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

We can all empower women through education

The Standing On Our Shoulders program seeks to empower and mentor talented professional women and students in business organisations in Australia to provide them with leadership skills and to engage them in philanthropy. It’s a progressive and innovative mentoring program that includes men and women who want to support positive change through education.

“If you educate one girl, you can change a community,” Dr Kakenya Ntaiya.

The program is focused on creating a space for emerging businesswomen to raise money, with coaching and support from successful Australian women. Money raised supports causes that will significantly improve the lives of women and girls in developing countries through education.

The program brings senior business leaders together with young businesswomen to help them navigate the business world, and give them a shoulder to stand on in our fast-moving business landscape.

“If we are going to dramatically lift the number of female leaders in this country we need to stand on each other’s shoulders,” says Kristin Stubbins, Women for Change Committee Member and Partner at PwC.

The Standing On Our Shoulders program is arranged so that teams of women work towards a fundraising target. They take creative fundraising ideas to their respective organisations and encourage all staff to participate. The teams are made up of businesswomen at various stages of career development. They work to raise funds and sponsor charitable organisations that empower women through education in developing countries. In doing so, the women within each team and in the broader group will empower and mentor each other to succeed.

Dr Kakenya Ntaiya with two of her students, Linet and Sharon
Dr Ntaiya, her students Linet and Sharon at Macquarie Foundation’s International Women’s Week breakfast, March 2018.

The initial funding raised by the Standing On Our Shoulders program provided  a number of scholarships for students at Dr Kakenya Ntaiya’s school in Kenya to study at university.

The current Standing On Our Shoulders program will support Dr Kakenya Ntaiya’s by raising an endowment fund that will enable her charity to send future cohorts of students to attend tertiary education.

The Standing on Our Shoulders program in Australia will also empower talented women and help them realise their potential through access to corporate networks, informal mentoring and role models. Participating organisations will be given the opportunity to have their brands promoted as part of the fundraising activities.

 Our inspiration

Dr Kakenya Ntaiya encourages women to stand on each other’s shoulders. Kakenya has overcome significant adversity, including genital mutilation, to become the first Masaai woman ever to receive a PhD in the United States. She convinced the male leaders in the village that the education of a woman is important and gained their support to further her own education. Kakenya married and had children in the US. It would have been very easy to never return to her village in Kenya. But she knew that she should return home to help other girls and women. Kakenya also understood a fundamental truth – education of women is the key to development. Once women are educated, they can apply their skills to earn a living for their family – and they stay and help their communities.

Kakenya opened a school in 2009 for girls in her village. It began with 30 students and now has 230. Twenty-four students who started at Kakenya’s school have just graduated from high school. These 24 girls have a dream to go to University and Women for Change have raised the money to provide all of these girls with a tertiary education. Kakenya is also opening another school where more girls will be attending University.

Women for Change: Standing On Our Shoulders

Dr Kakenya Ntaiya with ABC World Today radio presenter Eleanor Hall
Dr Ntaiya on ABC World Today with Eleanor Hall.

As Kakenya says: “I’m helping girls who cannot speak for themselves. Why should they go through the hardships I endured? They’ll be stepping on my shoulders to move up the ladder – they’re not going to start on the bottom.”

Find out more

For more information on how you can be part of Standing On Our Shoulders, please contact Women for Change Committee Chair: Kristin Stubbins, PwC kristin.stubbins@pwc.com or the Women for Change Manager: Kylie Strawbridge,  kyliestrawbridge@outlook.com / phone: 0405 655974