My name is Mary Otieno, born in Kisumu County, Kenya in 1961. As a child I lived with my parents and siblings in a small village in Kisumu County. I went to a girl’s primary school in rural Kenya where I walked four kilometers daily to and from school. I never went to a preschool and began schooling from grade one, at the age of eight.

As a child, I struggled in my primary education because I had to juggle my schoolwork with the household chores I was required to do to support my family. I sometimes had to miss school because we couldn’t afford the fees.

During my primary schooling, my late grandmother, Siprosa Anyango, was my mentor in almost all aspects of my life, including my studies and hygiene as an adolescent; she even financed some of my food and schooling. My mother was shy to discuss issues related to sexuality, in particular menstruation, but my grandmother Siprosa freely discussed everything with me. She mentored me on how to value and care for myself, and how to become an empowered woman.

At that time, most of my peers that were girls never completed high school – they often got pregnant and married or dropped out of school. I attribute my grandmother’s support and mentorship to my academic and professional success. Not only did I finish high school, I also completed my graduate studies and eventually earned a PhD in educational planning and economics of education.

My grandmother is my inspiration for starting the Siprosa School.

I want to give back to society as an empowered woman who has persevered through difficult circumstances with hard work and determination.

I want to enable poor families to break the vicious cycle of poverty.

I want to provide young minds the opportunity to explore their talents, interests and full potential in a quality preschool so that they may have a strong foundation for their future schooling.

I want to educate young girls, and also young boys, so that they may become the men that will not be intimidated to work with, marry, and live with these empowered and strong women.

Mary’s story