An inspirational memoir from a human rights activist who has devoted her life to fighting female genital mutilation.
The author is a member of the Maasai tribe, born in the small Kenyan town of Kimana, and she evocatively explores the culture of her people. Historically, Maasai men are known as fierce warriors who protect their people and animals, while Maasai women serve as the caregivers of the house and children. A community bound by tradition, they live in hand-built circular homes and raise cattle as the primary food source. When they are young, children have one of their cheeks branded by a hot coil of wire; the scab creates a circle that serves as “a special symbol to mark us as Maasai.” When it was Leng’ete’s turn, she ran away, and she “still [has] no marks.” Another tradition is referred to as “the cut.” During this ceremony, the women subject the young females to a procedure in which their clitoris is either cut or removed completely—without anesthesia. Leng’ete refused to undergo FGM. “I loved my family. I loved my people. But this, I thought, was wrong,” she explains. “Tradition can be good. Tradition can be beautiful. But some traditions deserve to die.” Following her defiant act, she was shunned. With urgent, shocking, and heartbreaking detail, Leng’ete brings readers into her life. Beginning her work with the African Medical and Research Foundation when she was still a teenager, she found her calling. Armed with scientific evidence about the significant health risks associated with FGM, Leng’ete returned to her community in hopes of instilling change. Due in part to her relentless efforts, tribal leaders “changed the Maasai constitution to reflect our commitment to end FGM.” Leng’ete was also awarded the black walking stick, a symbol of leadership not normally given to women. She went on to campaign globally, including building A Nice Place in Kimana, “a safe haven for girls fleeing FGM."
An incredibly powerful story that offers real hope for the future.