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She was just 8 years old when she was supposed to under go "the cut."

Nice Leng'ete and her 10-year-old sister woke up early the morning of their cutting ceremony. They took the cold shower meant to serve as their only anesthesia before having their clitorises removed. Then they quietly slipped out of their Kenyan village and ran through the bush to their aunt's house 40 miles away.

They had seen other girls in their village get cut, heard their cries of pain, seen some faint and even die. They didn't want to go through that themselves.

A week later, the girls were found, brought home, beaten, and threatened. They were told they would not be real women if they did not get cut. They would not be able to marry, and would bring shame upon their family.

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Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
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When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

Before beginning the intense three-year training required to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Swegle had never been in an aircraft before; piloting was simply something she was interested in. It turns out she's got a gift for it—and not only is she skilled, she finds the "exhilaration to be unmatched."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

As Swegle's story shows, representation and equality matter. And the responsibility to advance equality for all people - especially Black Americans facing racism - falls on individuals, organizations, businesses, and governmental leadership. This clear need for equality is why P&G established the Take On Race Fund to fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care, and make our communities more equitable. The funds raised go directly into organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund, helping to level the playing field.

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