Before I participated in this year’s Voices to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) workshop, I had seen blurbs from previous years. In my head, the Voices program was an in-person workshop where a community of people got together to share their stories. However, COVID-19 happened, and this in-person experience was transformed into a virtual series. I was nervous going into the workshop. I missed the first two live sessions because of time-zone differences, and when I finally made it to a live session, the community already knew each other. Yet, I was embraced with much warmth and found myself comfortable to share my story almost immediately.
A part of the Voices program is to tell your stories through a video narrative. It is almost paradoxical that I chose somewhat chirpy tunes and colorful images to accompany my story of coming to terms with khatna, or female genital cutting as it is known in the Bohra community. Though I was sharing a narrative I have hidden in the crevices of my mind for years–a story I am just weaving together, a fact that still brings me pain– I wanted to emphasize the radiance and calm that came with healing. I wanted to leave the viewer on an upbeat note–a note of hope.
This coming together of a community of women sharing stories, tears, joys, aspirations, dreams, fears, and sacrifices was healing. The film editing is over, the written drafts are ready to be published, but the cathartic part of this workshop will live on in me. Coming together with this community has allowed me to come to terms with myself. Something in me was always reluctant to voice my story before the workshop. I wrote about it, preferred to text about it, but refrained from talking. My voice is louder; I am more willing to share; and maybe I will have a conversation face-to-face one day.