I think we’ll all agree that it is rare that a television program moves us anymore. In the age of HDTVs, when channel surfing is made possible by touch less hand gestures and mere voice commands, we look but don’t see, hear but don’t listen, and then, with utmost indifference, we change on to a different channel.
That’s not the case though when you’re watching CNN Heroes. It is an “annual television special created by CNN to honor individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a real difference in their communities”. Each year, millions of people who watch this program are humbled by 10 individuals, who literally, have set out to change the World. They clean up rivers, help children who are fighting cancer, bring health care to some of the darkest parts of the world and so much more.
Make no mistake, on social media, I’ve come across men and women who are appalled by the state of things, and want to bring change. They are well educated, quote from famous poems and prominent literary works, stir up fierce debates, even attack you if you dare say something against their opinion. Unfortunately, that’s as far as their enthusiasm mostly go. How many times have you seen a Facebook post regarding the safety of women in India? Now think, how many times has the poster (or sharer) done something to change that state of affairs? Does that include the writer of this note as well? Yes, sometimes, it shamefully does.
That’s not the case though with Kakenya Ntaiya, a Kenyan women from the Maasai tribe. In her village, it’s customary for girls to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (a.k.a. FGM), where an elderly woman carrying a rusty knife would grab their intimate body parts and, in just moments, cut them out! If that’s not horrific enough, consider this: This ceremony sometimes happens as early as at the age of 10 and in front of hundreds of onlookers! Soon after, the girls are married off. In Ntaiya’s words:
It means the end of their dreams of whatever they want to become in life.
When Ntaiya came to age, she took her stand; she’d go through FGM only if her father let her continue her education. From there, she went on to go to college in United States, a first from her village. Not forgetting her roots, and wanting to “help (my) sisters”, she returned to her village in 2009 and opened a school for girls where today, more than 150 girls receive the education and opportunities that she had to sacrifice so much to attain.
When asked if she cried during the shocking ceremony, she told CNN:
Brave girls don’t cry.
They sure don’t, Ntaiya, they sure don’t.