NYTimes: She Ran From the Cut, and Helped Thousands of Other Girls Escape, Too
A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to visit Lenkisem, Kenya with our friends at Amref Health Africa to witness an Alternative Rites of Passage ceremony.
A young woman named Nice Nailantei Leng’ete has been leading advocacy efforts in Kenya to replace female genital mutilation with a three-day training and beautiful ceremony filled with candlelight, dancing, and political representation. At Women Deliver, we know the power that young people have to drive change, and want the world to see what can happen when we work with partners and with young people to solve such entrenched problems.
Women Deliver invited the New York Times to witness the Alternative Rites of Passage, and I’m sharing the resulting article and photo essay below.
I have always been an optimist on the future of girls’ and women’s health and rights. What is happening in communities like Lenkisem, with leaders like Nice, reinforces why.
I hope you too will be inspired by this story.
By Jina Moore
LENKISEM, Kenya — The first time cutting season came around, Nice Leng’ete and her older sister ran away and hid all night in a tree. The second time, her sister refused to hide.
For Maasai families, the cutting ceremony is a celebration that transforms girls into women and marks daughters as eligible brides. But to 8-year-old Nice, it seemed like a threat: She’d be held down by bigger, stronger women, and her clitoris would be cut. She’d bleed, a lot. Most girls fainted. Some died.
Still, her sister gave in.
“I had tried to tell her, ‘We are running for something that’s worth it,’ ” recalled Ms. Leng’ete, now 27. “But I couldn’t help her.”
Ms. Leng’ete never forgot what her sister suffered, and as she grew up, she was determined to protect other Maasai girls. She started a program that goes village to village, collaborating with elders and girls to create a new rite of passage — without the cutting.
In seven years, she has helped 50,000 girls avoid the cutting ritual. Read more ››
“They were saying, ‘You’re not a real woman,’ and I was saying, ‘I will still be a real woman one day,’ finishing school, marrying and having children, in [my] own time.”
“All the other things — the blessings, putting on the traditional clothes, dancing, all that — that’s beautiful. But whatever is harmful, whatever brings pain, whatever takes away the dreams of our girls — let’s just do away with that.”