Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"I want to be a voice for the voiceless," said the 26-year-old from the Maasai tribe. "I am proud of my country, but I don't agree with some of its practices."

She couldn't escape the entrenched tradition of female genital mutilation. When she was only 9, she endured the procedure. And three years later, she was forced to marry.

While some countries ban the disfiguring custom, the practice persists. Many still believe the procedure is necessary to ensure that women are virgins and to lessen their sexual desires. Often, however, it results in infection, HIV and even death.

According to Equality Now, an international women's rights organization, more than 130 million girls and women have been circumcised, and 2 million girls undergo the practice every year in countries mostly in the northeast and central parts of Africa.

"I realize the tribe wants to keep its culture, but there's so much suffering," Ms. Mashua said. "Even though we are educated, we are still abused."

Her friend Jennifer Chege of Arlington grew up in a different environment in Kenya.

"My history is different," she said about growing up in a middle-class neighborhood. "But I know the other side and how women have to accept the abuse. We need to change their way of thinking."

That's the challenge, said Dennis Gakunga, who met Ms. Mashua at an event sponsored by the Dallas chapter of the United NationsAssociation. He left Kenya to study at the University of Texas at Arlington. "The tribes don't want to lose their culture," he said. "So they fight hard to keep their traditions."

Ms. Mashua is fighting hard to stop certain traditions. One goal is to establish rescue camps for girls in her country.

"I would like to start an organization here to help with this," she said. She feels people do not realize how difficult life still is for many African girls. She said she hopes she can help end genital mutilation by raising awareness of the practice.

Many international organizations are helping.

These actions encourage Ms. Mashua. Yet she knows she has far to go.

piblished by the Dallas morning news in 2006 now miss Mashua is the president of Mashua voice for the voiceless

Ms. Mashua just launched a worldwide campaign and currently the Global ambassador of FGM she is also the chairlady of protect sponsored girls from FGM .

The Voice