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People We Love :: Agnes Pareyio

Creating Choices for Women

At 14, Agnes Pareyio was forced to participate in “Emuratare,” a 5,000-year-old rite of passage for Maasai girls involving female genital mutilation (FGM). Forty years later, she is an outspoken leader in Kenya on women’s rights, where she works to create alternatives to FGM.

Pareyio began by walking from village to village to educate families on the dangers of FGM and urge them to spare their daughters. Today she runs two safe houses for girls trying to escape “the cut” and flee forced marriage. Both houses offer young women education, counseling, and a two-week alternative rite of passage designed to encourage them to make their own decisions.

An estimated 2 million girls worldwide experience FGM. Pareyio’s work to end this practice has won recognition from the United Nations and support from Eve Ensler’s organization, V-Day.

Honoring Maasai culture, creating alternatives for girls

Agnes Pareyio
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Heather Purser wrote this article as part of The New Economy, the Summer 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Heather is editorial intern at YES!Magazine. Photo of Heather Purser
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