Kenya’s first personality named recently in the list of Time Top 100 World’s Most Influential Persons has landed a plum job as global FGM ambassador.
Nice Nailantei, who is a programme officer with African Medical and Research Foundation, has been elevated to the position of Amref’s global FGM ambassador.
The announcement of her elevation was made by Amref Programme Director Peter Ofware in Nomayianat village, Kajiado South Sub County on Sunday during her homecoming after her recent achievement.
Ofware said the position was created specifically for Nailantei after her achievement in the fight against FGM in Kenya, and especially among Kajiado Maasai.
“For us to recognise Nailantei’s success and the kind of work she has done, we created the position which will now entail her trotting the globe as Amref’s FGM ambassador preaching against bad practices that negatively affect girl child and women,” said Ofware on Sunday.
Ofware said on top of that, Amref has set up a fund that will offer scholarship for girls through Nailantei’s initiative, and also build a girl’s institution in Nomayianat that will provide skills and leadership advocacy for girls and women.
He said money has been set aside for the project to start immediately after the residents and leaders in Kajiado donated land for the envisaged construction.
As the world marked Mothers’ Day on Sunday Kajiado, in a special way, celebrated one of her own world achiever, Nailantei.
Guests from across the seas, around Kenya converged at Oldonyo Oibor Primary School in Kimana Ward in Kajiado South for Nailantei’s homecoming and thanksgiving.
Nailantei was recently named Times Top 100 World’s Most Influential Persons of the Year because of her role in fighting female genital mutilation practices among girls in her Kajiado county.
She was named and awarded a prize along with world leaders that included President Donald Trump, Prince Hurry, Meghan Markle, Prince Mohammed Salman, Sadiq Khan, Xi Jinping and Carmen Cruz among others.
She is the face of Maasai Culture and Heritage and Anne-Marie Madison Anti FGM Ambassador 2018.
The first time cutting season came around, Nailantei and her older sister ran away and hid all night in a tree. The second time, her sister refused to hide.
For Maasai families, the cutting ceremony is a celebration that transforms girls into women and marks daughters as eligible brides.
But to 8-year-old Nailantei, it seemed like a threat: She’d be held down by bigger, stronger women, and her clitoris would be cut. She’d bleed, a lot. Most girls fainted. Some died.
Despite the negative effects of this customary rite of passage, her sister still gave in.
“I had tried to tell her, ‘We are running for something that’s worth it,’ ” recalled Nailantei, now 27. “But I couldn’t help her.”
Nailantei never forgot what her sister suffered, and as she grew up, she was determined to protect other Maasai girls. She started a program that goes from village to village, collaborating with elders and girls to create a new rite of passage — without the cutting.
In seven years, she has helped 15,000 girls avoid the cutting ritual.
Her work mirrors national — and global — trends. Rates of female genital cutting worldwide have fallen by 14 per cent in the last 30 years. Here in Kenya, cases have fallen more than twice that fast, according to Ofware.
New laws have made a difference, here and elsewhere. Kenya outlawed female genital cutting in 2011, and a special unit for investigating cutting cases, opened in 2014, prosecuted 76 cases in its first two years.
But laws made in the capital often have little effect on culture in the countryside, where custom is deeply ingrained and men’s power is virtually absolute.
In Maasai country, male elders enforce the customs, and the cut has long been one of the most important.
The belief has been that women aren’t women unless they are cut, which means men can’t take them as wives. Much of how Maasai society is organized relies, in one way or another, on that ritual.
So the fight against female genital cutting, experts agree, needs Nailantei’s kind of work: persuading village after village, and elder after elder, to overturn centuries-old custom.