As a Maasai child in Kenya, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete accomplished something remarkable: she escaped the cut, her culture’s ritualized female genital mutilation.
But saving herself was not enough. As an adult, she has gone on to negotiate with village elders, who traditionally have not worked with women, and convince them that alternative coming-of-age ceremonies will be healthier for girls and better for communities. Her work as a project officer with Amref Health Africa has saved an estimated 15,000 girls around Kenya from the cut, as well as from child marriage.
Nice is an extraordinary example of young African girls standing up for themselves. After the loss of her parents, she could have given up and followed the norm, knowing that challenging attitudes in male-dominated communities can get you cast out. But instead, she fought to get an education so she could help change the sociocultural structures that continue to impede women’s lives and well-being.
That approach has earned her admiration and respect. Nice was the first woman in her community to be given a black talking stick by elders. And now she speaks on a global stage, using her voice to raise awareness about her work. FGM and child marriage will end in Africa because of the likes of Nice.
Dukureh is the CEO and founder of Safe Hands for Girls