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  • Leng'ete receives the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in Spain Oct. 19, 2018

    Leng'ete receives the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in Spain Oct. 19, 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 March 2019
Opinion

"Girls, not only in Africa but all over the world, have to know they are the women of the future," the human rights activist said.

Nice Leng'ete, Kenyan human rights activist fighting against female genital mutilation (FGM) believes that feminism should appeal equally to all African women in order to know their rights and to empower them.

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The 28-year-old Maasai activist said the feminist movement "should focus not only on women with education or with a career, but also "should include ordinary women: those who have not gone to school, those who, because they are women, believe they can not be what they want [to be]."

Ambassador of the NGO Amref Health Africa and named one of the top 100 influential people of 2018 by TIME magazine, Leng’ete evaded the ritual practice herself twice -- the first time at 8 years old. She has since been advocating for alternative coming-of-age ceremonies, negotiating with village elders who traditionally do not work with women.

"I think the information should reach these normal women who suffer from different problems, from sexist violence, female genital mutilation or child marriage to having been married as a child," she said in an interview in Nairobi.

Her work as a project officer with the NGO, which won the Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in 2018, has saved around 15,000 Kenyan girls from FGM and from child marriage.

"Girls, not only in Africa but all over the world, have to know they are the women of the future," affirms the activist with conviction, insisting that "they have to understand that they are beautiful, confident, intelligent and courageous; that nothing should stop them from being the woman they want to be. "

Despite having improved in the last decade, 21 percent of women and girls in Kenya between 15 and 49 years have suffered genital mutilation and an estimated 20 percent of adolescents between 15 and 19 years are mothers or are pregnant.

In addition, almost 23 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were forced to marry before they turned 18, according to data from the national health survey in Kenya in 2014.

However, Leng'ete is optimistic: "I do not think we need 100 years (as the World Bank predicts) to achieve gender equality, I think it will happen sooner," adding that while equality doesn’t yet exist, it’s worth celebrating "how much progress has been made if we look back 40 or 50 years."

"I think we have already done a lot, we have not arrived yet (to equality between men and women), but we will do it someday," she said.

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