Amref Health Africa-trained Nice Nailantei Leng’ete has been selected to participate in the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
Nailantei will join young leaders from across sub-Saharan Africa and the United States at the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit which includes a six-week leadership training and a three-day interactive session with U.S. leaders in business, government and the non-profit sector. U.S. President Barack Obama will host the Summit.
Nailantei, who has been working as a project officer under the Amref Health Africa in Kenya Alternative Rite of Passage program for the last three years, continues to play a key role in the fight against Female Genital Cutting (FGC) to ensure girls and women in her Maasai community transition to womanhood without undergoing the cut. She also acts as a role model to help the girls avoid early pregnancy and marriage and complete their education.
Nice at an Alternative Rites of Passage ceremony with girls are welcomed into the community as women without undergoing FGC.
“I personally have seen too many women and girls, too many friends, have their dreams taken away from them. Traditional harmful practices have impacted their lives. They’ve had to go through the horrors of bleeding so much from genital cutting that they died, being called cowards when they cry, having difficulties when giving birth and being forced into early marriage. And this needs to change,” she said.
Having escaped from the forceful cut at the age of 8, Nailantei has been educating her community, including Maasai cultural elders, Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), mothers and girls, chiefs and church leaders on the negative effects of FGC. She has even overcome the challenge of convincing young Maasai men, referred to as morans, that FGC should be abandoned. With support from some of the elders, Nailantei managed to slowly challenge their traditional mind-set and get the morans on board to accept the new rite of passage. The elders recognized her efforts and awarded her the Esiere, a black walking stick used by Maasai elders to symbolize leadership.
As an Amref Health Africa FGC ambassador, Nailantei has taken this message to the global stage. In 2013, she spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York about her spirited effort to stop FGC in Kajiado County and at a TEDx Talk in the Netherlands, and continues to be an agent of change in her community on sexual and reproductive health rights.
To date, Amref Health Africa has rescued over 9,000 girls from FGC in Loitoktok, Magadi, Samburu in Kenya and Kilindi in Tanzania.