Nice was listed by TIME as one of the 100 most influential people in the world today, in honour of her work with Maasai communities in Kenya to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM, also known as Female Genital Cutting or FGC).
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, a practice that was common for young girls in the community. The World Health Organization defines FGM/C as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. In many communities, like Nice’s, the practice of FGM/C is directly linked to child marriage and a lack of education for girls.
Nice endured beatings and social stigma, but still refused to undergo the procedure. She eventually convinced her grandfather, a Maasai elder, to allow her to escape ‘the cut’ and continue her schooling.
Today, in her role at Amref, Nice works with communities like hers to find alternatives to the practice, ensuring that girls can finish their education, marry when they feel ready to, and fulfil their potential.
“I personally have seen too many women and girls, too many friends, have their dreams taken away from them. Harmful practices have impacted their lives, and they can never get those days back. And this needs to change,” says Nice. “I’ll continue to fight until no Maasai girl has to undergo FGM/C. I will continue to demand that girls can grow into women without being circumcised. Every young girl in Kenya can become the woman of her dreams. I am, for sure.”
“Nice was the first woman in her community to be given a black talking stick by elders,” writes Jaha Dukureh - CEO and founder of Safe Hands for Girls, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee - in her tribute to Ms. Leng’ete. “And now she speaks on a global stage, using her voice to raise awareness about her work. FGM and child marriage will end in Africa because of the likes of Nice.”
“Nice’s story illustrates what can happen when a young woman is able to claim her human rights and take control of her future,” says Frances Longley, Chief Executive of Amref Health Africa UK. “She is one of thousands of courageous young women fighting for their own rights, and those of their friends and peers - and paving the way for the next generation.”
ARP is a community led and driven cultural alternative to FGM that seeks to retain the harmless cultural rituals and celebrations around womanhood while removing the harmful cut for girls.— Nice Nailantei Leng’ete (@NiceLengete) March 8, 2018
ARP offers a training that sensitizes Cultural elders Young men TBAs Church leaders chiefs. pic.twitter.com/30Vno7nLot