Meet The Woman Who Saved 15,000 Girls From Female Genital Mutilation

TIME Magazine have been releasing their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for years, and 2018's list features plenty of big hitters.

Easily most interesting category every year is the 'Pioneers' section, which brings to the fore the changemakers and the revolutionaries, those who stand up for what they believe in and make a difference. Nice Nailantei Leng'ete is one of the standouts.

"As a Maasai child in Kenya, Nice Nailantei Leng'ete accomplished something remarkable: she escaped the cut, her culture's ritualised female genital mutilation (FGM)," explains Jaha Dukereh, an anti-FGM campaigner, who wrote the introduction to Leng'ete for TIME.

"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."

Credit: Instagram
Credit: Instagram

Leng'ete herself spoke to Ebony magazine to describe how she evaded FGM.

"I escaped by running away," she said, hiding in tree with her sister to avoid FGM.

"FGM, for Maasai, is a rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood. Women are not considered women unless they have gone through FGM.

"FGM in my community connects to girls ending their education, with child marriage, and with teenage pregnancies.

"A girl is 10 or 12 years old when she undergoes FGM. Then she's told she's a woman, and that means she's ready for marriage, and that means she has children. They all go together.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

"I saw pain. I saw death. Since I was seven years old, I used to attend these ceremonies in my community with girls undergoing FGM. I saw my friends leave school and get married. And I wanted to continue my education."

She continued: "I'm driven by passion. Being able to protect these younger girls from these harmful practices is what I want to do; it's an important job.

"When I see the girls in school, that's my happiness. I'm hoping to reach many more - every girl - if I'm able."

This year's TIME 100 list also features US President Donald Trump, along with Kim Jong Un, Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping from the world of politics, and Hollywood stars including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Gal Gadot.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Mike Wood

Mike Meehall Wood is a freelance journalist and translator. He writes for LADbible, VICE and countless sports publications, focusing on rugby league, football and boxing. He is a graduate of Leeds University and maintains a fizzy pop obsession. Contact Mike at [email protected]

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