2011 - Ongoing
Pongezi, Alternative Rites Of Passage for Maasai girls, woman without the knife
PONGEZI A photostory by Anja Ligtenberg about alternative rites of passage, replacing traditional circumcision with education for Maasai girls in Kenya. Pongezi means congratulations in Swahili. Congratulations to the girls who are now women without being circumcised and to a community that had the courage to break with a centuries-old tradition. In the new ritual, the girls are not circumcised but they do celebrate all the beautiful traditional rituals, such as the shaving of the head, the dancing, the drinking, the singing, and the face painting. Instead of the cutting, the Maasai choose to give the girls an extra education. Moreover, their parents promise not to marry them off until they have completed their studies. Because the men and the elders are approached first in the process and shown respect, every one in the community accepts the girls as woman, societal change happens harmoniously.
This transformation spreads fast. Today, up to 16.000 girls have undergone this alternative ritual. Recently, their Maasai community member and anti FGM activist, Nice Nailante Lengete was chosen as one of TIME 100 most influential people.
To watch how a community is giving a positive modern spin on a centuries-old tradition is truly inspirational. These photos pay homage to what collaboration, dialogue, education, resilience and respect can accomplish.