In the East African nation of Kenya, girls in the Maasai community have little to say about the barbaric culture of female genital mutilation (FGM). The decision to cut a girl rests in the father’s bosom, even though the mothers play an important role in the cutting of the girl and preparing them for the rites.
In a study conducted by the Yes I Do Kenya Alliance and Royal Tropical Institute, the research team led by Tabither Gitau found out that several Maasai communities consider female genital mutilation as a compulsory rite and a girl must honor it to become complete.
Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Activist, Nice Nailantei Leng’et, is assisting thousands of Kenyan girls in using their rite of passage to combat an outmoded tradition.
Acclaimed Time magazine’s most influential person in 2018, Nice has used her influence and voice to assist more than 20,000 Maasai girls in Kenya and Tanzania to transition away from FGM and focus on their schooling and when it’s the right time to marry.
Nice was only eight years old when she ran away from her home in the village of Noomayianat, Kenya, to avoid being subjected to FGM/C. Nice, who now works with Amref Health Africa Kenya, said she was only eight years old when she fought the tradition by running away from her village of Noomayianat in Kenya.
She recalled on her non-governmental organization website how she endured social stigma and beatings but stood her ground against being subjected to the practice. She said it took endless persuasion to convince her grandfather to allow her to escape genital mutilation and pursue her education.
Through this singular effort, Nice has gotten her village to outlaw the practice of cutting girls when they come of age.
Researcher Gitau explained that, in the Maasai culture, before a girl gets married, she is expected to be circumcised through genital mutilation. He said they also found that without it, she is not considered an adult and is stigmatized for standing against the act.
According to him, aside from the traditional beliefs underpinning the tradition, the circumstances surrounding the period it’s carried out make it difficult to clamp down on the perpetrators.
Gitau indicated that the Yes I Do program is encouraging girls in the Maasai community to make their own decisions on when and whom to marry and have children with.
He said it’s the validation from the male leadership that is flaming the outlawed practice.