More Than A Survivor: An interview with Aarefa

Sahiyo understands that being a survivor of female genital cutting (FGC) is just one moment of your life and only one part of who you are as a person. Oftentimes, being labeled as a survivor can prevent people from seeing a person in any other context beyond survivorship.

Our campaign, #MoreThanASurvivor, explores our individuality and shows the world what makes us unique. After all, who we are is made up of all the moments in our lives, not just one.


Where do you live?

I live in Mumbai, India.

Where’s the favorite place you have traveled to, lived in, or would like to visit? 

In 2015, I had the opportunity to visit Islamabad, Pakistan. It was a lovely, emotional experience because of the long history between our two countries that are really just like sisters who have been separated by politics. The warmth and hospitality I received because I am an Indian made it the best trip I’ve been on.  

What are some of your passions?

Playing the violin is perhaps my biggest passion.  I started learning at the age of 22 and am still very much an amateur; but it’s something I’ll never give up! 

What does an average day look like for you?

Currently, my average day begins and ends with work, with very little time for myself, my health or my loved ones; but I’m determined to bring more balance to it. 

What are some things you do for self-care?

I’ve paid shamefully scant attention to self-care since the pandemic began; but I now intend to carve out a lot more time for exercise, mental health, music and reading. 

What are five words to describe you?

“So smart, yet so daft”, is how a lot of my friends describe me! 

What are your hobbies?

Music and reading. 

What is your profession or what career would you like to be in?

I wear two main hats.  I’m a journalist, and also an activist speaking out against female genital cutting.  

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer and journalist. 

What is your favorite food?

Cheese, chaat, and dairy-based desserts. 

What is your proudest achievement? 

Learning enough of the violin (despite starting at a very late age) to be given an opportunity to play in the second violin section of the amazing Bombay Chamber Orchestra. And of course, playing my part in this inspiring movement to end female genital cutting in my community, by speaking out publicly against the practice since 2011. 

What is a hidden talent that you possess? 

I can daydream for hours. Does that count? 

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