Nice Nailantei who was recently named in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world this year, was on Sunday (May 13) treated to a rapturous homecoming ceremony in Noomayianat village, Oloitokitok in Kajiado County.
Flanked by Loitokitok Member of Parliament (MP) Katoo Ole Metito, the leaders promised to tackle Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) as well as allocate more resources to educate the girl child.
Nice, a 27-year-old anti-FGMC activist (Amref global anti-FGM\C ambassador) received the honor for her work with her Maasai communities in Kajiado and Samburu to end the cut by promoting education among children. Song and dance filled the air as the TIME magazine circulated among hundreds of community members who flocked the village to receive one of their own.
As Nice arrived at the ceremony, women draped in maasai regalia – loads of beaded jewelry placed around their necks and arms, morans pounding their feet as shouts punctuated the still air. She later joined the morans as they jumped up, each time higher than before.
While sitting right at the epicenter of the ceremony, the elders blessed Nice, an employee of Amref Health Africa by pouring milk on her head – an important component of maasai culture.
Mr Metito who was the chief guest praised Nice saying she has made Kenya and Amref proud and deserves a national homecoming ceremony.
“Because of your relentless fight to protect the girl child, I am pledging to allocate more resources to educate the girls in Kajiado County,” he said.
Nice’s grandfather Mr Philip Lampat Sing’aro who raised her after the death of her parents, said that seeing her granddaughter recognised globally for her work was one of the happiest events of her life.
“When Nice’s parents died, I took over responsibility of educating her. I knew that one day she would return the favour by empowering other girls and women and empowering other girls. I am proud she has done it. I feel so proud,” he said in tears.“Don’t feel like the journey has ended, you have just started. Continue to fight for the rights of young girls here in Kenya and globally. The world is watching and we are behind you,” he concluded.
When Nice finally stood to speak, she had a solemn message to the community – let’s preserve our girls.
“This is just the beginning, the war is not over yet. I will ensure that girls go back to school and their dreams are realised through scholarships provided by Amref and other partners,” she said.
“I am so grateful for this award, it means a lot to me and my community. My special thanks goes to Amref for giving me the great opportunity,” she added.
Also in attendance was Amref Health Africa in Kenya Reproductive Maternal Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) programme manager Mr Peter Ofware who represented the Country Director. In his remarks, Mr Ofware praised Nice for her dedication towards her work in saving young girls from the cut.
“The reason why Nice has achieved is because of her tireless efforts and dedication to end FGM. As Amref, we will ensure Nice’s dream is realised by supporting her in the establishment of ‘Nice place’ where girls will be rescued.” He said.
Through the Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP), Amref Health Africa in Kenya has graduated more than 16,000 girls to womanhood without the cut. ARP is one of the Amref Health Africa’s innovative community based-driven approaches to eliminate FGM/C and celebrates the cultural transition from girl into womanhood through education, not the cut.
Nice is the only Kenyan who made it to the magazine’s 2018 list. She is listed alongside media mogul Oprah Winfrey, President of the United States Donald Trump, Prince Harry and China’s President Xi Jinping, among others.
Photos and story by Maureen Cherongis