Nice Nailantei Leng’ete was born in a village in Kenya in 1991. She was terrified of the cultural tradition of FGM, or female genital mutilation, in her village. At just 8 years old, she was expected to go through the procedure and to get married to an old man. She had seen so many other girls go through the painful procedure, and then they were forced to drop out of school and give their whole lives to marriage and childbirth. But Nice wanted to keep going to school, and she didn’t want FGM!
She ran away to avoid the procedure two years in a row, and was beaten and threatened by the men in her village - including her own uncle! - both times. She advocated for herself to her grandfather, stating that she would rather run away forever and live on the road rather than partake in the tradition. He agreed! And she was the first girl in her village to ever attend high school, even though she was ostracized in her village and painted as a bad influence for refusing “the cut.”
Eventually, Nice starting learning about sexual health, and she wanted to hold classes and counsel the men in her village about what she’d learned. Even though women are not allowed to petition to village elders in her culture, she did it anyway! And after awhile, they gave in.
It took four years for the village to start implementing real change, but slowly more and more men started listening to her. And when enough members of the village were convinced that when girls who stay in school, get married later, and aren’t burdened by the complications of childbirth after FGM, then everyone will be healthier & wealthier… her village eliminated the tradition of FGM for good!
Now, Nice works internationally to raise awareness & to help countless other girls and women in many, many communities all over the world avoid FGM and child marriage. Now that’s iconic!
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