Who We Are


photo (3)

Mariya Taher in graduate school for her Master of Social Work from San Francisco State University pursued a qualitative study titled, “Understanding Female Genital Cutting in the United States.” Since then, she has worked in the field of gender violence for nearly ten years, working on issues of domestic violence at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.; Asian Women’s Shelter; and Saheli, Support and Friendship for South Asian Women and Families. She was a 2014 Women’s Policy Institute for The Women’s Foundation of California and her team successfully passed legislation to provide low-income survivors of domestic violence with basic needs grants. She has been an adjunct lecturer at San Francisco State University where she taught “Gender, Sexism, and Social Welfare Institutions” in the Social Work Department. Currently, she works with the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association on passing state legislation to criminalize FGC and build public awareness campaigns around FGC within the state. Learn more about her by listening to Mariya’s Interview with ABC News or reading about her on Orchid Project’s Blog. To contact Mariya, email her at mariya@sahiyo.com.

Aarefa picAarefa Johari is a journalist based in Mumbai, India. She has four years of experience as a reporter and feature writer with Hindustan Times, a national daily, and currently works with Scroll.in, an online publication. She reports on communities, gender, human rights, urban development and culture. She is an alumnus of the 2013 batch of the International Visitor Leadership Programme, conducted by the United States Department of State. To contact Aarefa, email her at aarefa@sahiyo.com.

PriyaGoswamiPriya Goswami is an independent filmmaker from Delhi, India, now based in Hong Kong. In 2013, her film ‘A Pinch of Skin’ received the prestigious National Award for documentary filmmaking for being the first film to closely examine the practice of female genital cutting in the Dawoodi Bohra community of India. She is the recipient of IAWRT Long Documentary grant and has also worked with FAO of the United Nations in Cambodia in capacity of a filmmaker. She has directed and shot several short fictions, ads and documentaries and is currently pursuing her independent productions. Learn more about her by listening to Priya’s Interview with Hindustan Times. To contact Priya, email her at priya@sahiyo.com

IMG_1949Insia Dariwala is an Advertising & Mass Communications graduate from F.I.T, New York, and an award-winning, international filmmaker, currently based in Mumbai. Fiercely passionate about protecting the rights of children, Insia has effectively used her 14 years of experience in advertising & films, to highlight these issues. ‘The Candy Man’ her hard hitting debut film on child abuse won her two ‘Best Director’ awards in India, and was also nominated internationally. However, ‘Cock-Tale’, her second award winning film on rape, was what gave birth to her organisation, ‘The Hands of Hope Foundation’, which is actively involved in working against sexual abuse on children, using visual art and education, to create awareness in schools, communities & slums. Insia strongly believes that FGC is also another form of violence on children, which needs to be eliminated, and has today, successfully fused both her passions to address children’s issues. See Insia speak to IBN CNN by clicking here. Learn more about a short film on FGC written and directed by Insia by clicking here. To contact Insia, email her at insia@sahiyo.com.

Shaheeda picShaheeda Tavawalla-Kirtane is a Canadian researcher and policy analyst from Toronto, Ontario. She graduated from the University of Toronto, Trinity College, with a Bachelors of Science (Hons) degree in Pharmacology & Toxicology. She recently moved to Mumbai, India, and works for a non-partisan think tank called the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Mumbai.  Her areas of work in public health and policy are diabetes, newborn hearing screening, low-cost and high-impact health innovation, mental health and creation and promotion of health literacy programs in schools in Maharashtra, India. Shaheeda was educated at a very early age about the harmful practice of khatna by her mother, Dilshad Tavawalla, who stood her ground and protected her daughter from being subjected to it (read Ms. Tavawalla’s thoughts on khatna here). Shaheeda is keen to study female genital cutting from a research perspective and this goes back to her days as an undergraduate student studying Life Sciences. Learn more about her views on khatna by watching Shaheeda’s Interview with  the Hindustan Times.


Chandni_Photo3Chandni Shiyal, Sahiyo Administrative Assistant

Chandni did her Masters in Sociology from the Department of Sociology, University of Mumbai. She also completed her M.Phil. from the Centre for African Studies, University of Mumbai on the subject of female genital mutilation in Africa with a special focus on  Ethiopia. In 2015 she published a book titled Female Circumcision/ Female Genital Mutilation: A Human Rights Violation A Case Study of Ethiopia. Ms. Shiyal is currently pursuing her Ph.D. from the Centre for African Studies, University of Mumbai. Her topic of research is Gender Inequality and Women’s Health: A Comparative Study of Ethiopia and India.

Maria Akhtar, Sahiyo Communications Assistant

Maria joined Sahiyo as a volunteerPhoto3_MariaAkhtar earlier this year after becoming more aware of the activist community working to end FGC. She’s an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis studying Economics and Literature and passionately enjoys writing. She hopes to use her skills of blog-writing and communication to create positive social change and advance Sahiyo’s mission. Maria’s worked on increasing Sahiyo’s communication materials and creating context analysis for further research on how best to facilitate conversation amongst activists and survivors.