Reflecting on Moving Towards Sexual Pleasure and Emotional Healing After Female Genital Cutting Part 2

On November 17th, Sahiyo hosted part two of the ‘Moving Towards Sexual Pleasure and Emotional Healing After Female Genital Cutting’ webinar. Two specialist speakers helped to lead the webinar: Haddi Ceesey, a health educator on sexual and reproductive health, and Nazneen Vasi, an expert in physical and pelvic floor therapy. 

Nazneen began by asking the audience what the pelvic floor is and then explaining it comprises the external female genitalia. I was shocked to realise I wouldn’t have been able to answer if someone had asked me this question. The comprehensive detail that Nazneen went into very effectively emphasised how little we as women are taught about our own bodies. She also emphasized how important it is to understand the workings of the female body to fully appreciate how trauma is physically reflected in the body. Nazneen described how trauma to the pelvis, for example, can present as sexual pain, incontinence, or loss of organ support, which can result in prolapse. Female genital cutting (FGC) specifically can cause pelvic floor dysfunction, which presents as pelvic pain, weakened muscles, and constipation, among other things. It felt very important to learn about such specific consequences of FGC, in order to start grasping the suffering of so many women. 

The importance of advocating for our own public health was subsequently expressed, especially as there are so few healthcare practitioners who are trained specifically in the support system of the pelvic floor. It seemed to provide further evidence for the erasure of women in medicine and healthcare; when male bodies are seen as the universal norm, their symptoms and side effects are often automatically applied to all, and their female counterparts’ symptoms and side effects are all too often disregarded. This inequitable norm provides all the more reason to prioritise your own health, especially as a survivor, in order to move forward and reclaim one’s own body. You can read more about Nazneen’s work and Pelvic Floor Therapy in relation to FGC here

Haddi explored this journey to healing further, discussing general wellbeing and how FGC has been found to directly impact mental health, especially in young people. The physical problems resulting from  FGC, such as pregnancy complications, period pains or poor sexual health, inevitably lead to a worsened quality of wellbeing; FGC survivors have often cited anxiety, stress and fear concerning sex and intimacy. When speaking to mothers, Haddi found that their concerns about sex stemmed from a fear of potential complications they would face having more children, based upon their previous difficult childbirths. Interestingly, many of the women surveyed wouldn’t even directly address sex; they would instead talk about marriage and let the rest be inferred. 

I thought that this very effectively highlighted a significant part of the problem as to why FGC still occurs – it is inevitably much more difficult to address this gender-based violence if practicing communities see sex and sexuality as a taboo, or as something private or shameful. It makes it a lot harder for survivors to be open about their sexual struggles stemming from FGC, or to get support in overcoming these issues.

Haddi concluded her part of the webinar on a constructive note, focusing on how survivors can move forward in intimate relationships; she suggested increasing conversations about intimacy and pleasure within sexual partnerships, as well as with other survivors. Haddi explained that these women can learn a lot from each other alongside providing support. Additionally, it is clear that there is not nearly enough comprehensive legislation on FGC, and that it must include education and resources to help survivors live healthy and fulfilled reproductive and sexual lives. Finally, Haddi encouraged survivors to spend time with themselves and their partner, to explore their bodies and find different erogenous zones. There are also some very exciting developments currently in clitoral reconstruction and restoration, which specifically puts emphasis on regaining pleasure.

Overall, I found the talk to be very positive and empowering. Both speakers went into important detail about the physical and psychological consequences that FGC can have on sexual and reproductive health, and both gave expert advice and multiple different methods to help survivors start to regain their sexuality. 

Watch the full event here

Read the transcript here

Watch Moving Towards Sexual Pleasure and Emotional Healing After Female Genital Cutting Part 1 here

Sahiyo participates in Massachusetts Healthy Youth Consortium

On November 1st Sahiyo partnered with The Massachusetts Healthy Youth Consortium (MAHYC) to hold a training for K-12 teachers about the importance of using education as a means of preventing female genital cutting (FGC) and how they can become advocates against this practice. The goal of MAHYC is for educators, health professionals, policymakers, and other advocates to work collaboratively towards helping to pass The Healthy Youth Act which would ensure that comprehensive curricula are taught in public schools that choose to offer sex education. Massachusetts ranks 12th in the nation for at-risk populations, with nearly 15,000 girls at risk, with the largest at-risk areas being Boston, Newton, and Cambridge. FGC is often rooted in secrecy and isolation, and girls at risk are often taught never to speak of what they experienced. Sahiyo believes that education can be a powerful tool to break this silence and bring some clarity to the myths surrounding female genital cutting.

Upcoming Webinar: Moving Towards Sexual Pleasure and Emotional Healing Part 2

By Amela Tokić

Last October, Sahiyo hosted a webinar called Moving Towards Sexual Pleasure and Emotional Healing After Female Genital Cutting. This provided an opportunity to hear from three inspirational speakers: psychotherapist and author Farzana Doctor, activist Sarian Karim-Kamara, and psychotherapist Joanna Vergoth, on female genital cutting (FGC), sexuality and its connection to mental health. The webinar jump-started an important discussion on ways survivors can begin to move towards their own sexual pleasure and emotional healing after FGC. 

Sahiyo didn’t hesitate to delve into difficult and taboo subjects surrounding FGC, such as psycho-social and mental impacts of FGC, and provided survivors and non-survivors a space to better understand the process of sexual and emotional healing after FGC.

Coming this November, Sahiyo will be hosting a second part to the webinar: Moving Towards Sexual Pleasure and Emotional Healing After Female Genital Cutting Part 2. The webinar will dive deeper into these topics with three new expert panelists: 

  • Nazneen Vasi, pelvic floor therapist and founder of Body Harmony Physical Therapy.
  • Manal Omar, founder of Across Red Lines,
  • Haddi Ceesay, health educator and consultant for HEART

Register for the event here: 

The event is open to anyone who wishes to attend.

Watch the recording of the first webinar

Read the transcript of the first webinar

Read the blog post for the first webinar

Read answers to questions from the first webinar

The event is sponsored by Sahiyo.

Sahiyo partners with FAWCO to lead an educational webinar on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in the United States

By Beth Fotheringham

On the 16th of September, the FAWCO Target Team collaborated with Sahiyo for an educational webinar about FGM/C in the United States. The webinar sought to highlight the essential work Sahiyo does in their work to end FGC and support survivors.

At the start of the webinar, Sahiyo co-founder and U.S. Executive Director Mariya Taher  provided context with her own expertise on both ‘khatna’ and the Dawoodi Bohras, a community that partakes in the  harmful practice of FGM/C. Through her own journey of speaking out as a survivor, she recognised the need for an organised forum within practicing communities, as well as the individual and collective benefits of creating positive social change through empowerment. It was evident that this had informed Sahiyo’s own unique approach to supporting survivors and raising awareness, which centres on storytelling. 

Mariya proceeded to clarify the various terminologies used in talking about female genital cutting (FGC), as well as the different types of the practice; she deftly outlined why Sahiyo uses ‘cutting’ instead of ‘mutilation,’ while respecting the right of survivors to choose how to define and describe their own experiences. 

She unflinchingly laid out the fact that 500,000+ women and girls are estimated to be living with, or at risk of, FGM/C in the US. This was especially shocking for me to learn, due to so much of the discourse surrounding FGC focusing on cases in Africa or “developing” countries, and evidence of such practices being greatly underreported in the Western world. This figure was made even more impactful when Mariya further deconstructed the statistic. She posited that this is most likely an under-representation, as it does not include any diasporic communities from countries not included within the 32 countries studied by UNICEF. 

For example, the Bohra community, who do practice FGC, are not counted in this statistic, nor are most other Asian countries where evidence of FGC exists. The most recent study into FGC prevalence found evidence of FGC in 92 countries worldwide, strongly suggesting that the statistic from the United States is a considerable underestimate. Through the webinar, we learned that there are current efforts within the US by the Center for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) to capture more accurate data, which sounded promising, but that data collection is in its early stages. 

In another part of the webinar, various survivor stories from the Voices to End FGC project were introduced. Renee Bergstrom’s story was particularly powerful in addressing and disrupting common misconceptions about where FGC takes place and to whom. Jenny’s story portrayed the devastating silence that upholds the practice happening generation after generation; Maryah Haidery’s story explored the various psychological consequences of FGC. All were both informative and inspiring.

Mariya also spoke on the legal context of FGC in the United States, explaining and analysing the current federal legislation, while applying it to real legal cases. This was especially helpful to understand — as someone who lives outside of the US I find the state/federal separation particularly confusing — and it became much clearer how abuses of human rights, such as FGC, are able to slip through the gaps of the law.

After watching the webinar, I found it indisputably apparent that there are neither sufficient federal nor state laws to effectively uphold the work against FGC in the United States, and absolutely appalling that not even every state has legislation against the practice (with only 6/7 states having comprehensive laws against FGC). Though I understand that criminalisation of FGC is by no means the only, or most effective, way of ending the practice, I think it is important in taking a clear (and sometimes symbolic) stance against FGC with coherent legislation that automatically supports the work of activists and survivors to stop FGC in different countries. Alongside this, it also helps families who are doubtful of the benefits of FGC for their daughters have a legitimate reason not to carry out the procedure while not having to outright stand against the rules of their cultures and communities. 

I found it especially inspiring to hear from Mariya how Sahiyo’s work has been instrumental in passing state laws; most recently, and successfully, in Massachusetts. Sahiyo is now engaged in similar work to pass a state law in Connecticut, one of the ten remaining states without any legal protections against FGC whatsoever. I think focusing on the progress that has been made definitely provides effective encouragement to keep working for change.

It was similarly uplifting to learn that the Voices Projects have resulted in survivors feeling a sense of empowerment and a surge of desire for collective action, as well as experiencing a strong sense of comradery with other storytellers. This embodies what inspires and impresses me most about Sahiyo: not only are they doing crucial work to end FGC and stop future generations of girls, women and others from having to undergo the practice, but they also have an important focus on supporting those that have already been through it. Listening to the stories of these survivors conveys clearly how successful this parallelled approach is.

Interestingly, in Sahiyo’s study of 400 Dawoodi Bohra women, which found that 80% of the  women had been cut, 81% also said that they didn’t want the practice to continue into the next generation. FGC is a social norm that has been justified, with silence being a key part of why it has continued. I now understand how telling these stories breaks the silence and takes the conversation out of hidden, private spheres and into the public one. Mariya spoke of particularly relevant research that found when it comes to social norms and culture change, if 25% of a community changes or adopts a new norm, then it becomes wide scale enough for permanent change to occur.
Mariya concluded her talk by discussing Sahiyo’s various other programs, such as Thaal Pe Charcha, Bhaiyo, Sahiyo Activist Retreat, and Community Education and Outreach, all of which have had substantial success in supporting FGC survivors and raising awareness. It was clear by the end of the webinar how essential the services Sahiyo provide are to survivors alongside the wider communities, and what an integral role they play in worldwide efforts to stop FGC.

A reflection on the medical perspectives on female genital cutting (FGC) webinar  

By: Amela Tokić

On October 9th, 2021, community-led movement End FGC Singapore, which strives to empower Muslim communities in Singapore to end the practice of female genital cutting (FGC), hosted a virtual event to bring more attention to the medical impact and medicalization of FGC. 

Saza Faradilla, co-founder of End FGC Singapore and facilitator of the event, introduced the historical background of FGC in Singapore and the rise of FGC medicalization.  Guest speaker Dr. Ida Ismail-Pratt shared her medical perspective on the sexual, physical, and psychosocial impacts of medicalized FGC on women and girls. While the full event will not be published, End FGC Singapore will be sharing snippets on its Instagram page.

The Medical Perspectives on Female Genital Cutting (FGC) webinar dove deep into the impact FGC poses through migration, with a particular focus at western countries as well. This gave an interesting perception of FGC as a deeply rooted cultural norm, and thus many women and girls born in western countries would seek out FGC in the countries they had migrated to; alternatively, they could be forcibly brought back to their origin countries for the procedure, if FGC is not legally accessible in the migrated countries. 

This left many participants pondering and asking the questions: Is there a medically safe way to perform FGC? How would I recognize if FGC was performed on me? Is there a difference in consequences when FGC is performed on adults or infancy?

My personal highlight from the event was hearing Dr. Ida Ismail-Pratt share professional studies on the sexual impact FGC has on women. The studies focused on both women who have not undergone FGC and those who have undergone FGC, and it concludes that sexual desire is not impacted by having undergone FGC or not. This is a powerful statement, as many who undergo FGC are believed to have a lessened sexual drive as a result. However, the primary impact FGC has on women is the effect it poses on their sexual experience(s) – lower sexual satisfaction. 

This webinar was a perfect blend of a medical perspective along with a statistical analysis. It not only provided a professional opinion of the impact FGC has on women and girls, but it also provided solid evidence from survivors of FGC as well. One of the most startling findings is that the majority of women and girls are not even aware that they have undergone FGC, since it was done at such an early age. If they are aware, they often do not know who performed the procedure or with what medical instrument. 

For those interested in being part of future virtual events hosted by End FGC Singapore, you can follow them on Instagram and/or Eventbrite.

Read more about past webinars and/or donate to support the end of FGC in Singapore.

Upcoming webinar: Exploring the connections between religion and female genital cutting

By Sarah Boudreau, Programs Intern

Event: Exploring the Connections Between Religion and Female Genital Cutting

Date: Thursday, October 28, 2021

Time: 2pm EST

Registration Link:

On October 28, 2021, Sahiyo will be hosting a webinar, ‘Exploring the Connection Between Religion and Female Genital Cutting’ (FGC). 

This harmful practice is often attributed to certain religions or cultures. Some might say these acts are justified because they are tradition or holy, not to be argued by those outside of the community. But does religion alone truly perpetuate the practice of FGC? How do survivors of FGC view the topics of religion and spirituality? And how do these things affect them in their day-to-day lives as women?

This virtual event will answer these questions and examine the FGC through a religious lens, including why it occurs and how it affects millions of women around the world. We will hear 3 expert speakers raise their voices while sharing insightful professional and personal experiences.The webinar will be moderated by Sahiyo U.S. Executive Director Mariya Taher and includes a panel discussion featuring Sameera Qureshi, Rahmah Abdulaleem, and more speakers to come.

Register today and join us as we listen, learn, and advocate for change for the future.

In addition, this webinar is part of a larger public awareness campaign that explores both connections and disconnections between religion and FGC, which Sahiyo will be initiating on October 28, in honor of the International Day of the Girl Child. When advocates speak about religion and its relationship with FGC, the conversation is usually focused on attempting to disprove the relationship and connection, rather than to uplift and highlight the idea that no religion should be permitted  to promote harm to a child. This campaign will explore the major themes connecting religion and FGC, emphasizing how religion should never be used to cause harm, regardless of leadership or textual sayings. Our hope in creating this campaign is  that we will educate the broader public on the right for women to choose and give consent, as well as the importance of agency over their own bodies. 

Speaker Bios: 

Sameera Qureshi, MS OTR, is an Occupational Therapist and Sexual Health Educator. For the last twelve years, Sameera has worked at the intersections of mental and sexual health education within Muslim communities, both in Canada and the United States. After twelve years in non-profit spaces, she founded her own business, Sexual Health for Muslims, in the Fall of 2020. The goal of her work is to create online, comprehensive sexual health education for Muslims, grounded in the tradition of Islamic spirituality and psychology. Sameera’s approach not only addresses the body and mind, but more so the soul, which is what Muslims are tasked with gaining self-awareness of. Apart from offering comprehensive, online sexual health courses for Muslims, she also provides one-on-one consultations, premarital education sessions, and regularly collaborates with Muslim organizations and other professionals in the field. Sameera also facilitates professional development opportunities for sexual and mental health providers who intersect and work with Muslim clients and communities. You can find her work on Instagram @sexualhealthformuslims, and on her website

Rahmah A. Abdulaleem is the Executive Director of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. which aims  to create a global network of advocates who are both knowledgeable about the gender-equitable principles of Islam, and are able to advance the cause of Muslim women’s rights in legal and social environments. Ms. Abdulaleem  works with scholars to empower advocates about the rights Islamic law grants to women; she also  educates Muslim women in Islamic jurisprudence, leadership, and conflict resolution so they may become the leading agents of change within their communities. Ms. Abdulaleem has coordinated and presented at educational and civil rights programs around the world. Ms. Abdulaleem obtained her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and worked at a top international corporate law firm for 14 years. You can learn more about her work on her website

Reflecting on the critical intersections between anti-racism and female genital cutting

By Sarah Boudreau

In late July, Sahiyo held its webinar, Critical Intersections: Anti-Racism and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). Sahiyo U.S. Executive Director Mariya Taher moderated the panel discussion that included four expert speakers: Leyla Hussein, Aarefa Johari, Sunera Sadicali, and Aissata M.B. Camara. The event included thoughtful commentary on the overlap between racism, oppression, culture, and FGM/C, as well as the struggles the panelists have faced while working to spread awareness and bring an end to FGM/C. 

Hussein is an anti-FGM campaigner and a survivor who shares her personal experience of FGM/C with the goal of protecting girls from this abusive practice. Originally from Somalia, Hussein works as a psychotherapist in the United Kingdom and addresses the prevalence of FGM/C around the world. Johari is a journalist, feminist and activist based in Mumbai, India. Johari is a senior reporter with, where she covers gender and labour. She has been speaking out against female genital cutting since 2012 and is one of the five original co-founders of Sahiyo. Sunera Sadicali grew up in a family that was a part of the Bohra Community; they were (and still are) the only Bohras in the Portugal/Iberic Peninsula. Sadicali is constantly trying to reconcile and find a balance between motherhood, art, her work as a family doctor, and political activism. Camara is a professional with over a decade of program development and management, strategic planning, and relationship-building experience in non-profit, local government, and international affairs. A social entrepreneur and advocate, she was featured in The Guardian, PBS, RFI, Deutshe Welle and Brut for her advocacy to end female genital mutilation/cutting. Camara is also a frequent speaker at conferences, including high-level events at the United Nations.

The four panelists, who are survivors of FGM/C, answered questions about how FGM/C intersects with other forms of oppression, including racism, violence, and “othering.” They also discussed the lack of legislation and law enforcement surrounding the practice, and challenges to passing laws to protect girls at risk. One notable part of the discussion occurred when Hussein made the point that survivors can become gatekeepers and have the opportunity to change the way that they are perceived. She relayed that when people hear about FGM/C, they may dismiss it and attribute it to cultural practice, but by naming FGM/C as child abuse rooted in patriarchy and oppression, survivors can draw attention to the issue for what it is in order to truly show people the harm being done.

Toward the end of the webinar, Camara discussed other movements such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter and how allyships must be formed in order to generate more traction in the media to spread FGM/C awareness. By teaming up with other survivors, resources, officials and organizations, more conversations about FGM/C can lead to change. 

In conclusion, the Critical Intersections webinar allowed panelists from diverse backgrounds to share their views on racism and FGMC. Several ideas were brought up about how to spark change and dialogue in both local communities and globally. But the common thread among all the speakers was that change is not always easy, but always worth fighting for. For the sake of women and girls everywhere, the future holds hope for justice, healing, and change.

Read the webinar transcript.

UnChained At Last: The United States’ Child Marriage Problem webinar reflection

By Cate Cox

On June 17th, UnChained At Last held their webinar, “The United States’ Child Marriage Problem.” Founded by a survivor of forced marriage, Fraidy Reiss, UnChained At Last is the only U.S.-based organization working to end forced and child marriages through direct advocacy and services. During this webinar, they explored their work and research into ending child marriage. At this event, they were joined by advocate Chelsea Clinton, author and influencer Blair Imani, bipartisan state Senators Julia Salazar (New York) and Katrina Shealy (South Carolina), Dr. Yvette Efevbera of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and survivor and advocate Patricia Abatemarco.

Globally, 15 million girls are married before their 18th birthday. In a study conducted by UnChained At Last, they found that between 2000-2018 approximately 300,000 children were married across the United States, the majority of whom were underaged girls marrying adult men. The marriages documented involved girls as young as 10 years old. Also, 60,000 of all documented marriages involved a couple where the age difference between the two would constitute statutory rape if they were not married. Child marriage predicates a multitude of physical and mental health issues: abuse, lack of education, and poverty. Yet, public understanding of the severity of child marriage in the U.S. is very limited. 

Like many types of gender-based violence, including female genital cutting (FGC), child marriage in the U.S. is upheld through complicated systems of patriarchy, economic survival strategies, cultural norms, and legislative inaction. Both Senators Salazar and Shealy agreed that culture and shame are a major cause of the continuation of the practice. Within communities with a history of child marriage, many are unable to understand the multi-layered harms of this practice, and many survivors say their parents forced them into marriages to avoid communal shame from pregnancy or rape. These notions of shame and cultural necessity undermine many forms of gender-based violence, forcing girls to sacrifice their autonomy and future or risk ostracization. 

Yet, the thousands of girls forced into marriage across the U.S. are often unable to access support services to escape dangerous situations. Being underage, in many states they cannot hire a lawyer, file for divorce, go to a domestic violence shelter, file a protective order, and other life-saving support systems if they become trapped in abusive situations. The irony of this is astounding, girls are old enough to be wives but not to be divorced. This loophole traps girls in cycles of violence and destroys families.  

At the beginning of this webinar, UnChained At Last shared their heart-wrenching video: The Girls You Have Destroyed, filmed by survivors of child marriage. By highlighting the stories of survivors (not unlike the Voices to End FGM/C videos by Sahiyo) they were able to show the real impact of this issue and highlight its deeply personal effects on women and girls. 

UnChained At Last staffers explained that they are working state-by-state to outlaw the practice of child marriage, since only five states including New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, have an outright ban on marriages involving persons under-18. There is no federal law against it. In order to push for legislative change, the approach of Sahiyo and other organizations to outlaw FGC in the United States mirrors that of UnChained At Last. Both are using a state-by-state approach, while simultaneously pushing for legislation at the federal level. While there is now a federal law, the STOP FGM Act of 2020, and 40 states with state-specific laws, it took the tireless work of activist across the U.S. to implement the most, seemingly inarguable, protections for girls against FGC. 

In better news, UnChained At Last found that the number of child marriages in the U.S. decreases every year. However, the speakers still stressed the continued importance of raising awareness about this issue. They highlighted that while U.S. foreign policy may condemn child marriage as a human rights abuse, we still allow it to be practiced on our soil. Speaker Blair Imani explained that the notion that child marriage is a “far away problem that requires faraway solutions” is one of the major barriers to addressing this issue in the U.S. 

While watching this webinar, I could not help but notice the similarities between the work to end child marriage and our work here at Sahiyo to end female genital cutting (FGC). From the intergenerational norms to the dismissal of the issue as a foreign phenomenon, the problems at hand are very similar. Both Sahiyo and UnChained At Last have struggled to make people aware of the severity of these issues within the U.S., and the urgency to address them. While discussing legislative action, one of the speakers in the UnChained webinar remembered speaking to a state legislature who told her, “Is it really that bad if a girl marries her rapist?” I was immediately drawn back to similar arguments advocates against FGC have heard such as, “It’s just a prick,” or, “It’s not that bad.” The severe harms caused by FGC and child marriage to women and girls are routinely dismissed, and survivors are left without support systems. 

At the same time both Sahiyo and UnChained At Last stress the importance of uplifting survivors’ voices, both for their personal healing and to create legislative change. Through tireless work, they and Sahiyo are making the world a safer place for girls, and are championing a world free of violence against women. 

You can watch the full webinar here: 

Addressing Critical Intersections: Anti-Racism and Female Genital Cutting

Although female genital cutting (FGC) is not limited to any one community, misconceptions rooted in racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia have still negatively impacted the movement to end FGC – as well as survivors themselves. In our work to end FGC, we must use an intersectional approach to support the needs of all women impacted by FGC and bring about substantial change. First coined in 1989 by professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, the term intersectionality was created to help us understand “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” An intersectional approach to all social movements is crucial to address the intersecting oppressions that impact different communities. 

On July 29th at 1 pm EST Sahiyo will be hosting the webinar, “Critical Intersections: Anti-Racism and Female Genital Cutting.” This webinar will explore the intersection of anti-racism work and the work to end FGC. Four expert speakers, including Leyla Hussein, Aarefa Johari, Aissata Camara, and Sunera Sadicali, will explore intersectionality and FGC in a panel moderated by Sahiyo U.S. Executive Director Mariya Taher. These renowned activists have worked in the field of FGC prevention and survivor support, exploring the critical intersections where this form of gender-based violence meets systemic racism. Our guest speakers’ experiences will expand the conversation on how FGC survivors and advocates for change often have to push back against racist narratives in their work and in their journey toward healing, as well as how systemic racism can delay substantial change on this issue.  

During this webinar, you’ll be able to be a part of the discussion about how we can all become better educated and better advocates in the journey to end systemic racism and FGC. This event is open to anyone who wishes to attend. Register Today: 

Leyla Hussein is an anti-FGM campaigner and a survivor who shares her personal experience of FGM with the goal of protecting girls from this abusive practice. Originally from Somalia, Leyla works as a psychotherapist in the United Kingdom and addresses the prevalence of FGM around the world. As Leyla reminds us, FGM is a practice of oppressing women and controlling women’s sexuality. It’s not an African issue, it’s not an Asian issue; it’s a global issue that requires a global investment in women.

Aarefa Johari is a journalist, feminist and activist based in Mumbai, India. Aarefa is a senior reporter with, where she covers gender and labour. She has been speaking out against female genital cutting since 2012 and is one of the five original co-founders of Sahiyo. Sahiyo is an organization founded on the belief that storytelling in all forms can create positive social change and help empower communities to abandon the practice of FGC.  

Sunera Sadicali was born in 1982 in Mozambique and moved to Lisbon when she was 2 years old. She grew up in a family that was a part of the Bohra Community; they were (and still are) the only Bohras in the Portugal/Iberic Peninsula. Sunera underwent khatna (FGM Type I) by age of 8 in Pakistan while visiting her grandparents on vacation. She moved to Spain to study medicine by the age of 19 and finished her Family Medicine residency in Madrid. She has been politically active since the birth of her second child in 2012 in women’s issues, decolonial feminism, anti-racism and healthcare activism. Sunera is constantly trying to reconcile and find a balance between motherhood, art, her work as a family doctor, and political activism.

Aissata M.B. Camara is a professional with over a decade of program development and management, strategic planning, and relationship-building experience in non-profit, local government, and international affairs. A social entrepreneur and advocate, she was featured in The Guardian, PBS, RFI, Deutshe Welle and Brut for her advocacy to end female genital mutilation/cutting. She has received numerous awards, including the New York State Assembly Certificate of Merit, Knights of Pythias Medal of Achievement, the Hackett Medal for Oratory Excellence, and the Jo Ivey Boufford Award. Aissata is also a frequent speaker at conferences, including high-level events at the United Nations.

Webinar: Female genital cutting is an under-recognized form of gender-based violence in the U.S.

By Cate Cox

On April 15th, Sahiyo partnered with the U.S. End FGM/C Network and the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (APIGBV) for our webinar: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): An Under-Recognized Form of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the Unites States. This webinar was the second in a series that explored the intersection of FGM/C and GBV; how COVID-19 has impacted the prevalence of FGM/C; and how providers can offer better care to survivors. 

FGM/C is a reality for many women and girls across different communities in the United States. Yet, for centuries, FGM/C has remained a hidden practice. It’s often practiced by women on other females; and girls are raised to believe they must remain silent about what they underwent. Silence is an inherent part of this type of gender-based violence that can lead to lifelong physical and emotional health consequences. At the core of providing better prevention, protection, health, and social support services for women and girls are stronger data, enhanced research, and community engagement. 

Sahiyo co-founder Mariya Taher and members from the U.S. End FGM/C Network and APIGBV began this event by exploring the background of FGM/C and its global prevalence. The speakers dove into the history of FGM/C in the U.S., including legislative history and that of the practice itself. Then our speakers helped the audience make the broader connection between gender-based violence and female genital cutting. The audience, representing mostly Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) domestic violence/sexual assault organizations, identified many similarities including cultures of secrecy and silencing, shame felt by survivors, FGM/C as source of generational trauma, and FGM/C as a form of power and control over women. We also explored the lessons from the Ebola crisis in West Africa that can help us support women and girls during the COVID-19 crisis. Finally, we compiled a list of resources for service providers to further educate themselves on how to both adequately and ethically provide their services to survivors. At the end of the event, our speakers also answered the audience’s questions about their work and experience. 

Like many Sahiyo events, we also utilized the Voices to End FGM/C films throughout the presentation to help contextualize what the audience was learning and help them understand the stories behind the statistics. These films center the voices of activists and survivors advocating for an end to the practice. While data is crucial in order for us to grasp the scope of the issue, Sahiyo believes that storytelling can be just as powerful a tool in educating people and championing the abandonment of this practice.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: An Under-Recognized form of Gender-Based Violence in the U.S. as a webinar was a continuation of the important conversation around FGM/C and GBV that also provided the audience with tools they could use in the real work to better support survivors.  

Our guests had the chance to explore the intervention and community engagement efforts occurring in this country to support survivors, how COVID-19 has impacted FGM/C and GBV, and how they themselves could help prevent future generations from experiencing FGM/C. It also showcased the amazing work, everyone, at Sahiyo, APIGBV, and the U.S. End FGM/C Network is doing in their capacity to advocate for women’s rights and call for the abandonment of the practice of FGM/C. 

If you were unable to attend this event you can find more information here

Watch the recording of this event.

To learn more about APIGBV and the US End FGM/C Network, please visit their websites below: 

Additionally, if you are are service provider you can find some of the resources mentioned at this event below: