Voices reflection: An advocate’s journey

By Nesha Abiraj

Sometimes, our path chooses us. 

I became a lawyer 12 years ago because I wanted to help people who had been wronged get legal justice. If I had left that conversation and did nothing, knowing the risk millions of girls face, and knowing that the law was not even on the side of survivors or those at risk, I would be betraying my own sense of justice and morality. I  strongly believe that if you have a platform which you can use to further amplify the voices of survivors, you should use it. 

For these reasons, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to make this video for the Voices to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) project. As lawyers we are trained to advocate based on principles of law and fact, and under no circumstances are we to become the story, so for me this digital storytelling workshop was a new and uncomfortable space to step into. I remember feeling like I did not belong in the beginning. Honestly, it was the courage of the survivors impacted by FGM/C who participated in the workshop that really gave me the strength to stay with it. It’s hard to tell someone else’s story, but even more difficult having to look within yourself. It opens you up to vulnerability and fear, which I learned dissipates when surrounded by allies.

In doing this work, I started understanding the why of it all for me. In my life my pursuit of justice on behalf of others was always fueled by the desire to give to others the legal recourse to justice that I did not have and which I could not give to others in my childhood. In participating in the workshop, I recognized that although we did not have the same shared experience that caused us harm and pain, like some of the other participants I knew that feeling of powerlessness as a child and to have the consequences of that follow you throughout your life. I understood all too well that feeling of disappointment and perhaps even betrayal by the people closest to you and yet, part of you still wants to protect them.   

I have always tried to live my life to be a light for others. It is my hope that this video will be a light of inspiration to others to take action and a light to survivors and those at risk to know that they are not alone. They have allies that see them, hear them, and stand with them in this fight to bring about survivor-centered solutions guided by principles of human rights for every child at risk.  

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