IMPACT

Activist Who Underwent Female Genital Mutilation Helps Girls Escape Practice, Child Marriage

02/09/2015 02:43 pm ET | Updated Feb 10, 2015

Kenyan activist Agnes Pareyio opened up to HuffPost Live about undergoing female genital mutilation, or FGM, and why she's since dedicated her life to abolishing the practice, as part of Friday's International Day for Zero Tolerance Against Female Genital Mutilation.

Pareyio told host Alyona Minkovski that after she was "forcefully" made to undergo FGM as a teenager, she promised herself to never let another girl experience the brutal procedure. Pareyio is now the founder of the Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative and the V-Day Safe House for the Girls, and an activist for V-Day and One Billion Rising.

But because FGM is such an intrinsic part of the culture that "people believe in," Pareyio said it takes time to change perceptions of the dangerous practice.

"[The community thinks] they are doing the right thing because they started doing it a long time ago, and they grew up doing it, and feel like it's part of them," Pareyio said.

However, Pareyio's efforts to teach women and girls to fight the practice are working, and she said girls are seeking out shelters that are now available to avoid both FGM and being forced into child marriage.

"What we can do to them is to educate them to understand the effects of FGM and to show that there's a need for [communities] to take their girls to school, other than cutting them and marrying them off," she said.

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