Mae is an acclaimed Liberian journalist who is passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless – especially women and girls. She is known for reporting on the dangers associated with the ritual of female genital cutting (FGC, also known as female genital mutilation), an issue considered controversial as it is deeply engrained in local culture. FGC is practiced by 10 of 16 tribes in Liberia and is thought to prevent promiscuity by women. The practice is protected by traditional secret societies and, until recently, by government complicity.
Mae has faced strong criticism and hostility in her native Liberia, but she remains steadfast in her mission.
“I am a journalist because there are a lot of people suffering. Who hears them? No one, unless I go and record their voices,” she told New Narratives.
Mae’s courageous reporting has had enormous impact. However, it has also put her life in danger. She received death threats, forcing her to go into hiding with her daughter. In response, the international community – including journalist protection committees and human rights organizations – helped pressure the Liberian government to protect Mae. The government was also forced to take a stance on FGC for the first time. After denouncing the practice, the government committed to help find alternative sources of income for women who traditionally perform the cutting.
In Liberia, journalist Mae Azango moves a nation, Committee to Protect Journalists blog, 5 April 2012.
Watch this video of Mae speaking about why she writes about ordinary Liberians.