Voices Series: How listening to survivors' stories made me a better advocate

This blog is part of a series of reflective essays by participants of the Voices to End FGM/C workshops run by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Through residential and online workshops on digital storytelling, Voices to End FGM/C enables those who have been affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to tell their stories through their own perspectives, in their own words.

By Karen Kwok, MSN, FNP-BC

I sought participation in the Voices to End FGM/C workshop to better understand the patient experience of survivors of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). With increased awareness, I hope to be a better advocate and provider for women’s physical and mental health. The best practices for addressing FGM/C applies to all patient scenarios with creating safe space for active listening, appreciative inquiry and openness for building long-term rapport (if counseling is requested), and providing necessary physical and mental health services and referral resources without judgement.

Challenges to addressing FGM/C include the limited time with provider productivity demands, few available gynecological surgeons specializing in FGM/C labiaplasty with insurance coverage, and few resources for culturally competent mental health services.

Long-term consequences of FGM/C include long-term emotional anguish, gynecological and gastrointestinal pain, and obstetric complications. With the long-term relationship in primary care advocacy, family medicine providers are best positioned to support patient sexuality with initial and ongoing training in female anatomy, counseling strategies on gender orientation and sexual positivity, and patient care best practices. From this workshop, I hope to improve my skills in FGM/C counseling and gynecological health service delivery with increased awareness of women’s sexuality in the global context.

 

 

 

 

 
 

Job Opening! Social Media Consultant for a new Sahiyo project in India

Social Media Consultant position for an exciting new project on Female Genital Cutting in India

Are you a social media person with a passion for women’s and human rights? Do you have the skills to design social media campaigns?  If yes, then you could be working for an exciting new tech-based project in the movement against Female Genital Cutting (FGC) in India. 

Sahiyo is an international organization working to end FGC among Asian communities. We are looking for a proactive, efficient and bright social media consultant to join the team on a freelance basis to help us promote the app. 

Project duration: 1st June 2020 – 30th September 2020

Time commitment required: 10 hours per week (Flexible)

Main work involved: 

  • Work with the Sahiyo team to design social media campaigns to promote the new project.
  • Excellent social media skills to help us design outreach campaigns. 
  • Pro at social media channels, knows how to post across platforms. 
  • Crafting communication, willingness to promptly work out a response

 

Qualifications:

We are looking for an individual who has:

  • 1-2 years of experience in social media campaigning 
  • strong skills in writing, design thinking, campaign strategizing 
  • an eagerness to learn about the nuances and complexities of FGC in India
  • sensitivity towards cultural appropriateness and the needs of survivors of FGC and other community members 
  • The efficiency with respect to time management and being results-oriented
  • Passionate about the cause and willingness to be flexible with hours

The individual could be based anywhere in India but must be comfortable with working remotely and prompt with email communication.   

To apply, send your CV with a cover letter to priya@sahiyo.com 

 

Voices Series: How I reconnected with my purpose through storytelling

This blog is part of a series of reflective essays by participants of the Voices to End FGM/C workshops run by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Through residential and online workshops on digital storytelling, Voices to End FGM/C enables those who have been affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to tell their stories through their own perspectives, in their own words.

By Nonya Khedr 

Sahiyo and StoryCenter created a remarkable experience for me at the Voices to End FGM/C digital storytelling workshop. The workshop included phenomenal women and men who wanted to use their stories to advocate against the practice. Although sharing my story put me in a position where I felt extremely vulnerable and exposed, I certainly felt safe.

During the workshops, we learned how to create and articulate our stories in order to advocate against the practice. We took breaks to participate in healing exercises such as yoga and meditation. I was very grateful that we took time out of the workshops because it helped me reconnect with myself and acknowledge where I was. It gave my brain time to rejuvenate after revisiting traumatic experiences.

These exercises emphasized the importance of taking time out of my everyday life to take care of my wellbeing in order to strive and grow in my career. A few weeks later, I am now more mindful of how to manage my work, reconnecting with my purpose and remembering why I am doing this work. I am taking better care of my self with prayer, exercise, and downtime. 

The workshop inspired me to keep moving forward with the work I’m doing with my organization, SheFFA. I started SheFFA earlier this year to advocate against FGM/C, and provide support for women who have undergone the practice. Before coming to the conference, I experienced so many stressful and discouraging moments working on it due to the overwhelming amount of work and being a full-time college student. However, being a part of an environment full of powerful women and men who are passionate about eradicating FGM/C gave me more hope to move forward. I have developed lovely relationships with people who are extremely supportive and whose goals align with my mission.

The story that I have created during the workshop will be used to bring more awareness against FGM/C with the intention to empower other people to speak out against the practice and to make a greater impact.

 

 

How COVID-19 may increase gender-based violence, including FGM/C

The UNFPA and UNICEF Joint Program on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) released a technical note about how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect women and girls adversely in regard to violence and inequalities. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to allow an additional two million cases of FGM/C due to restricted movement and confinement of people globally, disrupting the Sustainable Development Goal 5.3: Eliminating FGM/C by 2030. The closing of schools, restricted mobility and the inevitability of health care workers prioritizing COVID-19 patients heightens the need for supporting community-based women and youth groups identifying at-risk girls vulnerable to violence, including FGM/C.

The brief is meant as a guide for UNFPA and UNICEF Joint Program staff and partners, other United Nations agencies, governments, civil society, and non-governmental organizations, on how to assess the impact COVID-19 may have on FGM/C programs. The call to action includes integrating FGM/C in COVID-19 preparedness and response plans; access to prevention, protection, and care services and community-based protection; alternative approaches to community-based interventions promoting the abandonment of FGM/C; opportunities presented by the pandemic; and adaptive monitoring and evaluation.

 

Voices Series: Why I'm grateful for sharing my story of Female Genital Cutting

This blog is part of a series of reflective essays by participants of the Voices to End FGM/C workshops run by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Through residential and online workshops on digital storytelling, Voices to End FGM/C enables those who have been affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to tell their stories through their own perspectives, in their own words.

By Anonymous

Honestly, I have never felt like a victim. What I am here to do is to create more awareness about female genital cutting (FGC)  in a creative form. My video touches on other religious issues subtly, and that’s why there is a repulsion to go public from my family, and I absolutely understand that.

Having to do this dialogue with my family and myself about being open or anonymous led me into a phase of depression where I felt locked, felt I cannot speak freely. It actually helped me evolve. This was deep. I have just aged in the process of making this decision to even release the work.

Now that it is clear to me, I understand how politically it can affect my family just because my story involves more than just FGC. With that clarity I chose to remain anonymous on this piece, largely the overall impact of having this done makes me more robust, more open with subtle diplomacy and less naivety. This phase strengthened self-belief, maybe in the future being anonymous can become history. Very thankful.

 

Voices Series: Naima Dido

My mother, a woman who has never held a pencil in her life, had a dream of educating me. And so, I became the first woman in my family to learn the power of literacy. Beyond the abilities to read and write for myself, my educational opportunities have empowered me to take control over my own mind and body, to know that I can mold my life and my future into whatever I wish. The differences between my mother and me include making my own choices, taking my own chances, and embracing the resulting changes. And still, my mother and our female ancestors—with all of their obedience to culturally expected behavior—inspire me to reach for my own dreams so that I could tell the stories of the trails they blazed with their blood, sweat, and tears, and most importantly their resilience and survival. In sharing our stories, I hope we inspire and empower other survivors to tell their stories.

I believe powerful narratives and effective storytelling can change cultural norms and create a space for new stories, ideas, and norms to flourish. When it comes to changing deeply held beliefs and traditions, stories are foundational. Supporting and empowering survivors to share their stories and engage with the broader community protects generations of girls to come from this harmful practice. Stories are a powerful tool to generate change. Hidden beneath our “survival stories” are skills, resources, positive values, dreams, and desires. Storytelling can help develop compassion for oneself.

Voices Series: Why I believe in the power of storytelling

This blog is part of a series of reflective essays by participants of the Voices to End FGM/C workshops run by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Through residential and online workshops on digital storytelling, Voices to End FGM/C enables those who have been affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to tell their stories through their own perspectives, in their own words.

By Shabana Feroze

I participated in the Voices To End FGM/C project by Sahiyo, where I also volunteer. What I really took away from participating in this project is the power of storytelling. In this project, videos are made from our past experiences with female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Each participant has a unique video. We would have weekly online workshops in which we were guided on how to tell our story and the next steps.

When each of the participants would read out her unique take on their experience, I would get chills. It had so much of an impact, listening to what each survivor went through and how it had affected them. 

It was very educational as well, because we were taught the nuances of storytelling. I found that to be the most interesting part: all the details that make a story more impactful and holds interest. I loved how we had very strict guidelines about story and video length. 

I relate to all this because I’m a marketer by profession. I believe in the power of storytelling for brands and marketing campaigns, so this was a strong reassurance that I was on the right path. All the little things I learned about what makes a story powerful and what makes a story stay with you definitely helped me in my profession as well. I could apply that knowledge to my professional work.

I also learned about teamwork and how step-by-step a big project comes to fruition. I’ve never worked on a project on an international level where the participants are all based in different countries and different time zones. Yet all of us came together and we did what was required of us, thanks to the effort and patience of Mariya and Amy, our facilitators. 

I’ve gained so much from participating in this project, more than I expected. I hope that our voices reach the highest levels and help to create change to stop this tradition.

Voices Series: We should all speak up against female genital cutting

This blog is part of a series of reflective essays by participants of the Voices to End FGM/C workshops run by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Through residential and online workshops on digital storytelling, Voices to End FGM/C enables those who have been affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to tell their stories through their own perspectives, in their own words.

By Hatim Amiji

As a man, I found myself extremely nervous sitting in a circle of ten women at Sahiyo’s Voices to End FGM/C workshop. I had entered what I would consider a sacred space, to share my story related to female genital cutting (FGC), but more importantly, to listen to their stories. The air was dense and it was obvious that what was about to be shared would be opening up deep and unhealed wounds. I took part in Sahiyo’s storytelling workshop because I wanted to make a point that FGC is an issue males should be willing to stand against. My story highlighted how the practice alienated the relationship I had with my sister. Only by listening to her story, were we able to recreate a bond we once had as innocent children. 

As the women told their stories, I listened to their descriptions of the pain they underwent both during the practice and throughout their lives. The metaphorical microphone had been passed, and I could hear what these women had kept inside for most of their lives. As a man, and therefore, in many ways an observer, I was situated in a derivative of social voyeurism. I was listening to stories that had weighed these women down for decades, but I myself never went through such experiences. And yet, I was accepted into their circle; I was given the chance to listen because they felt it was important for me to listen. In turn, the story I told was important for them to hear as well. It was one of solidarity, one that depicted a mutual understanding that this practice needs to end no matter one’s biological sex.

It is common knowledge in the community in which I was raised that this issue is one males are not to get involved in. As I have learned from women in the workshop, it’s the same for many communities around the globe. I had learned of the practice tangentially by skimming through an online pamphlet, and only learned of the prevalence of the practice by doing research on my own. It was never brought up in religious congregations, Sunday school, or in conversations with my parents. I had to bring it up to my mother in order to learn more about it, and I have yet to even speak with my father because I know he is likely as shielded from the issue as I once was. 

Aside from the fact that males are less informed on the issue, it is also apparent that males turn a blind eye even in light of exposure to the practice. We are expected to let the issue stay a female issue: one that we shouldn’t meddle in because we don’t understand. It is true that I will never understand the actual manifestation and perception of pain and lifelong suffering that comes with the practice, but I do understand that this practice is a source of trauma that affects our daughters and sisters and mothers, and this is enough for men to stand up and speak out against it. Around the globe, females are robbed of their innocence in the form of genital cutting and there is absolutely no good reason why. We must speak up because this issue affects us all.

Asia Network to End FGM/C calls for your participation

Malaysian NGO Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) and British charity Orchid Project are jointly developing a new Asia Network to End FGM/C, to strengthen movements to end the practice of FGC in Asian communities.

To shape this network and its priorities, all interested organisations, activists, and stakeholders working in the region on FGM/C or related issues in Asia are invited to fill out this consultation survey. The closing date for this survey will be 22nd December 2019.

Utilizing Participatory Storytelling to Educate – A session at APHA 2019

1On Nov 4, 2019, Sahiyo’s co-founder Mariya Taher took part in a round-table session at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to discuss the Voices to End FGM/C project. Participants were able to view a sample of the digital stories created by survivors. They were also able to learn how by utilizing participatory storytelling methods, we can educate communities, health professionals, and policymakers on female genital cutting. For more information, visit APHA’s website.