Medical student putting a smile on Maasai girls' faces

Mr Leshan Kereto, a student at Egerton University and founder Tareto Africa, is passionate about girl child empowerment.

Photo credit: George Sayagie| Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • For the last one year, the Second Year student at Egerton University has run a project through his organisation, Tareto Africa, to champion young girls’ rights, discourage school drop outs and fight female cut.

Growing up in rural Maasailand, a young Leshan Kereto saw his female colleagues drop out of school as a result of teenage pregnancies and early marriages.

He sympathised with them but was young and helpless. With time, he learnt that poverty and the retrogressive culture played a key role in pushing the young girls into the social ills.

Many who underwent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) got married off at a tender age.  Others got married to escape the challenges of accessing sanitary pads.

Mr Kereto from Naisuya village Narok North Sub-county, says some girls were lured into sex by men who bought them pads worth only Sh50.

“I later discovered that it was not only girls from my village affected by the vice but many others within Narok County,” says Mr Kereto.

This irked him. He vowed to help his younger sisters out of this agony. His first mission was to understand the science behind these cultures. He discovered the practices have no medical value apart from simply oppressing the girl child. He embarked on a journey of advocacy on sexual and reproductive health education.

Provide mentorship

He was in Form Two when he mobilised his friends at school to start an initiative that would provide mentorship and conversations on behaviour change among the youth.

His organisation, Tareto Africa registered in 2017, champions young girls’ rights, discourages school drop outs and fights FGM.

An event hosted by Tareto Africa where sanitary towels were distributed to hundreds of Maasai girls from Orboma village in Sikinani Location, Narok West Sub-county last month.

Photo credit: George Sayagie | Nation Media Group

Now a Second Year at Egerton University, Mr Kereto who is pursuing a degree in clinical medicine, is one of the boldest crusaders for girl child empowerment.

He has been able to convince more youths to join his organisation. Currently, he is the voice of anti-FGM crusade among the university students.

“I have created networks locally and internationally, which have enabled me to create partnerships in running the projects. At school, I have organised activities that empower students to join the fight against these vices,” he says.

This year, he led the students in marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM in Nakuru County, the first of its kind at the university. The event, attended by representatives from the Anti-FGM Board, aimed at equipping the university students with the necessary skills to carry out advocacy and sensitisation functions at home.

For the last one year, Mr Kereto has run a project that donates sanitary towels to school girls.

The initiative, ‘make a girl smile’ involves mobilising friends and well-wishers to donate funds towards providing pads to girls in targeted areas.

“We have 14 days for mobilisation before the actual date of the event. During this time, we reach out to friends and colleagues, and rally them to contribute towards the project,” says Mr Kereto.

Donated pads

The group has so far donated pads in at least four sub-counties in Narok County with more than 1,200 girls benefiting. The most recent activity took place at Orboma Village in Maasai Mara where more than 300 girls received sanitary towels.

Mr Kereto and his team also use such opportunities to educate girls on sexual and reproductive health, and motivate them to shun early marriage and teenage pregnancy.

Through his initiatives, he has made a name for himself, which has seen him get leadership roles at the university and other places.

He is currently the President of Clinical Medicine Students Association of Kenya. Last year, he was elected Vice-President of the International Federation of Physicians/Associates and Clinical Officers /Comparable Students Association.

Last March, Mr Kereto was on the youth advisory panel of the United National Population Fund. He plans to expand his initiative beyond Narok County.

“This vice cuts across many regions and my hope is to see all those girls assisted,” he concludes.