Launching Global Voices to End FGM/C – An Online Digital Storytelling Workshop

On June 1, Sahiyo and StoryCenter launched a pilot online digital storytelling workshop – Global Voices to End FGM/C, which is supporting ten women impacted by female genital cutting in sharing and audio-recording their stories. 

During June, storytellers attended a series of webinars that helped highlight the storyteller process and how to go about drafting their story scripts as well creating a storyboard for their digital story. During July and August, the storytellers will continue working on their digital stories by collecting illustrations for their stories. The stories will be illustrated with a combination of personal images (photos and video clips) provided by the storytellers, and images contributed by participating women artists. 

The storytellers come from a variety of countries including:  Tanzania, United Kingdom, India, Sweden, Singapore, and Bahrain. “As a survivor of FGC, it is empowering to be able to share my story in my own words, with my own choice of visuals, as opposed to my story being told by someone else,” said Aarefa Johari, one of the participants of the workshop. 

All participants’ digital stories will be released in late September.

Sahiyo’s male ally campaign: We need your voice!

Seeking Male Allies to Take a Stand Against Female Genital Cutting

Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is a harmful practice, deeply rooted in misunderstanding, that requires individuals of all genders, sexual orientations, races and backgrounds to come together to ensure that not another woman or young girl is harmed. We at Sahiyo have been so grateful for the outpouring of support from our volunteers and partners all over the globe tirelessly working with us to end FGC, yet we know that more needs to be done. Particularly, we need more male supporters to stand with us and make it known that practices which alter or harm the female body, whether in the name of culture, tradition or religion, will not be tolerated. 

Everyone deserves the right to be a free agent acting autonomously over their body, life, and the choices they have been given. When a young girl is told that she needs to be cut, for whatever the reason presented, she loses this right. Many women who have undergone FGC often grapple with difficult emotional and psychological wounds. 

Even less talked about, is the negative impact FGC can have on a woman’s relationship with her partner.  Frequently, issues arise involving intimacy, sexuality and childbirth making these relationships strained and painful. 

Simply put, we must all work together to ensure that we support survivors and prevent FGC from happening to future generations of girls. Speaking out on such a subject can be difficult. However, men must be part of this movement as well, as anti-FGM activist Tony Mwebia powerfully said: 

“Not involving men in the fight against FGM is like a doctor treating symptoms of a disease and ignoring the disease itself” #MenEndFGM”

How you can help:

We are seeking various submissions from our male allies by July 20th, explaining why they are united with us in ending female genital cutting. 

Types of submissions:

  • A short, 30 second to 1 minute video. Videos can be taken from a smartphone or from any alternative, digital device available.
  • Provide a quote explaining why you want to end FGC along with a picture of yourself and your name.
  • Write a blog post on the need for men to be involved in FGC that is 900 words or less. We accept anonymous submissions as well. 

Send all submissions via email to: info@sahiyo.com by July 20th. In the subject line, write “Male Ally Campaign to end FGC.”

Please consider being a part of this campaign to help us end FGC, we need everyone’s voice! 

#MenToEndFGC

If you have any questions, please get in touch with Sahiyo, at Info@sahiyo.com.

PRESS RELEASE: A pioneering Roundtable to Address Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Massachusetts

Download press release as PDF.

New logoPRESS RELEASE: A pioneering Roundtable to Address Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts, 14 June 2019

On June 13, 2019, a collective of almost 60 experts from different disciplines and cultural groups took the first steps to create a ‘Massachusetts End FGM/C Network’, to highlight the largely unrecognized global issue of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, and to share knowledge and resources to help end the practice.

The experts gathered to attend the first of its kind roundtable to address FGM/C in the state of Massachusetts. They included community leaders, civic society organizations, health professionals, state government officials from the Massachusetts Legislature, and the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate, and federal government officials from the Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security Investigations.

The event was organized and led by Sahiyo, a storytelling organization working to support survivors of FGM/C, with support from co-sponsors Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA), Tostan, MassNOW, Lesley University, the US End FGM/C Network, and the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts.

A prevalence study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention reveals that in 2012, over half of a million women and girls in the United States had FGM/C performed on them or were at risk of FGM/C. Massachusetts ranks 12th in the nation for at-risk populations, totalling 14,591, with the largest at-risk metro areas being Boston, Newton, and Cambridge.

“I’ve undergone FGM/C and I know FGM/C is a global issue affecting women of all different ethnicities, religions, cultures, socio-economic status, and more,” said Mariya Taher, Sahiyo Cofounder and U.S. Executive Director. We need a global response to ensure future girls do not undergo it. We need to think globally and act locally.”

“All are about the cultural control of women’s bodies,” s aid Representative Jay Livingstone in reference to FGM/C. Livingstone is a former prosecutor and co-lead sponsor of the Massachusetts FGM/C criminal bill – H. 3332 who connected the dots between this recent bill to Massachusett’s Equal Pay Act and other pending state legislation, such as The Roe Act. Rep. Livingstone expressed his hope that the FGM/C had bi-partisian support during this legislative session and would pass this session.

Dr. Melody Eckhart, an OB/GYN at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Sondra Crosby, an internist at Boston Medical Center, spoke about their experiences working with patients who have undergone FGM/C and physical complications that can result, including shock, pain, hemorrhage, infection, and anemia. They warned of the long-term consequences of scar tissue and cyst formation impeding proper urination and menstruation, sexual dysfunction, and complicated labor and delivery, as well as fetal demise. They also called on the urgent need for educating health professionals on how to care for survivors — including addressing their psychological and emotional needs.

“FGM/C is shrouded in secrecy even in the medical community,” said Dr. Crosby. “Health professionals need training in how to work with women in non-judgemental ways, how to make referrals, and how to treat the medical and psychological consequences of FGM/C, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Medical personnel need to understand the women’s FGM/C experience before they could diagnose and treat it.”

The roundtable was a vital first step to create a multi-disciplinary working group that works to protect all girls in Massachusetts from experiencing this form of gender-based violence.

For more information, contact Lara Kingstone at communications@sahiyo.com

Multiple events on female genital cutting hosted at Women Deliver in Vancouver

From June 2 to June 6th, Sahiyo co-founder, Mariya Taher took part in Women Deliver 2019 held in Vancouver, Canada this year. Over 8,000 participants took part in the conference and for the first time ever, a pre-conference on Female Genital Cutting was held on June 2nd, a day before the official start of the Women Deliver Conference. The preconference, “Uniting Forces to Ensure Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is a Practice of the Past” was an unprecedented event from civil society for civil society to unite voices and come together around a global Call to Action to end FGM/C and support FGM/C survivors. The event convened civil society organizations, champions, survivors IMG_3341.JPGand other grassroots representatives from across the globe to come together as a sector, to get to know others working globally across this issue, and to discuss what is needed to accelerate ending FGM/C by 2030. A global call to action was created out of the preconference by the participants in attendance, which was referenced throughout the entire duration of the conference and the various side-events on FGM/C held from June 3rd to June 6th.

Other side events in which Sahiyo took part in as a panelist or speaker included:

  • A screening of ‘In The Name of Your Daughter’ with a panel discussion afterwards entitled ‘FGM and the West — Is it our issue too?’
  • ‘It takes a whole community: Ending female genital cutting within a generation’ – hosted by Orchid project, this event was a highly participatory, activist-led, interactive workshop on community-based approaches to ending female genital cutting (FGC) within a generation. Featuring grassroots and civil society activists from East and West Africa, Asia, and North America, this session shined a light on effective community-led strategies to shift social norms and end FGC.
  • ‘Ending FGM by 2030: It’s a global issue’ hosted by Equality Now. With a little over a decade before the 2030 target to end FGC, this interactive panel session and audience Q&A explored two vital challenges/themes/hurdles our international community must address to achieve to protect every woman and girl from FGC: 1) How do we measure, invest and support each of the 193 countries who have committed to end FGM, including especially in Asia Pacific, the Middle-East, the Americas, Europe and Eurasia? 2) How can activists, CSOs, intergovernmental bodies, and funders move forward as one to hold States, International and regional bodies and donors to account to end FGM globally by 2030?

To learn more about Women Deliver and impact of the Preconference and side-events, check out related media coverage:

Further Sahiyo Blog Posts on Women Deliver:

 

‘A Pinch of Skin’ to Screen in Berlin

Sahiyo co-founder’s documentary ‘A Pinch of Skin’ will be screening at NaturFreudeJungend in Berlin on the 25th May. 25th May is also the one-year anniversary of the historic repealing of the ban on abortion in Ireland, also known as the 8th Amendment. This is especially significant as a successful contemporary feminist movement, where women of Ireland voted against the ban on abortion, influencing pro-choice ideas in the Irish constitution.

Goswami will be joined by a pro-choice activist from Ireland, Dervla O’Malley and Dr. Tobe Levin von Gleichen, Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation activist, for a panel discussion post the screening. The discussion will aim to look at practices and cultural ideas such as Female Genital Cutting, stigma on abortion, menstruation taboos which try to control the female body and sexuality. 

Sahiyo Stories Shown at Reconference In Nepal

From April 10 to 12, Sahiyo co-founder Mariya Taher attended Reconference, a three-day conference hosted by CREA, to address today’s most challenging socio-political issues and their intersections with feminism, art, and technology by rethinking, reimagining, and rebooting how to build an inclusive feminist vision of justice. 

Sahiyo Stories, a digital storytelling project organized and created by Sahiyo and StoryCenter, was selected to be part of Day 2 of Reconference, and Mariya presented the collection of 10 digital stories created by women living in the US who had undergone female genital cutting (FGC) or had family members who had undergone it, in order to highlight that FGC is a global issue affecting women of all different backgrounds. Her workshop was the only one highlighting FGC at the three-day conference.

Joint Press Release: ENDING FGM/C BY 2030: Uniting forces to make FGM/C a practice of the past

Screen Shot 2019-06-04 at 11.38.35 AM

Download Press Release as PDF

JOINT PRESS RELEASE: 

ENDING FGM/C BY 2030: Uniting forces to make FGM/C a practice of the past

2nd June 2019, Vancouver (Canada)

3.9 million girls are at risk of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) every year. On the 2nd June 2019, for the first time ever, NGOs, grassroots and survivor-led organizations from around the world came together at the Women Deliver conference around a common goal: to end FGM/C by 2030 and to support survivors of the practice. This is our Call to Action.

FGM/C is happening on every continent except Antarctica: it is a global issue that needs a global response, which is why we have come together – across Asia, Africa, Europe and North America – to build a unified platform for action. Together, we represent no less than 38 countries from all regions of the world. The time has come to make FGM/C a global priority, in the same way the community responded to urgent global epidemics, such as HIV/AIDs.

FGM/C is a violation of the human rights of women and girls and must be ended in all its forms. Whole communities must be mobilised and empowered at the grassroots level if we are to end FGM/C – women and girls, men and boys, traditional and religious leaders, health workers, law and policy makers. During the opening plenary of the Women Deliver conference, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, committed to end FGM/C in Kenya by 2022. We welcome this and call on all global leaders at the conference, and beyond, to commit to end FGM/C.

To put an end to the harmful practice of FGM/C, we will work in partnership with each other, all communities, governments, donors, multilateral bodies and others to end the practice by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) determined by the UN. Together, we will challenge the social and gender norms by addressing the root causes of gender inequality at the community level, including gender stereotypes, unequal power relations, and negative social norms. Because this is what holds the continuation of FGM/C in place: control of the female body, of women’s sexuality and of their freedom to decide for themselves.

We must also acknowledge our current failure in providing adequate support systems for FGM/C survivors. We need to provide security and protection, targeted research and resources to enable health and emotional wellbeing as well as post-trauma support. We also need to better understand and respond effectively to adaptations to the practice which continue to violate women’s rights, such as medicalization, cross-border practices, and lowering the age at which FGM/C is carried out.

Investment is needed in increased and better research into what is working, and what is not working, to end FGM/C. Funds should be more flexible, sustainable and accessible for communities. We need an integrated, intersectional approach to ending FGM/C, recognising the connections with other forms of gender-based violence and linking with existing movements. We are focused on coming together and working collaboratively to address what existing gaps there are, making sure that FGM/C is a practice of the past.

 

Signatories:

What is FGM/C?

It is estimated that 3.9 million girls and women underwent the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in 2015 alone (source: UNFPA). FGM/C

comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female

genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

FGM/C is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the

procedure results in death.

 

Screen Shot 2019-06-04 at 11.37.34 AM  

Further Women Deliver blog posts:

  

Sahiyo Hosts ‘Thaal Pe Charcha’ Iftar Party in Mumbai

On May 11, Sahiyo India hosted a special Thaal Pe Charcha “Iftar” dinner in Mumbai during the holy month of Ramzan. The event was attended by 24 women and men from the Bohra community, who came together to break their Ramzan fasts and also mark two years since Sahiyo launched its flagship programme of Thaal Pe Charcha. 
Photo 1
Loosely translated as “discussions over food”, Thaal Pe Charcha provides community members with a safe and intimate platform to share their stories, experiences, and feelings about the practice of Female Genital Cutting, while bonding over traditional Bohra food. At least 50 community members have participated in Thaal Pe Charcha events over the past two years, and the Iftar dinner on May 11 saw five new participants join in, with several questions about the nature of the practice of FGC in the community, the arguments for and against it, and the work done by the movement against the practice. 

Two of the participants also brought their children for the event, including the seven-year-old daughter of Zohra, an FGC survivor. Girls in the Bohra community are typically cut at age seven, and Zohra expressed pride in the fact that she would not be continuing the practice on her daughter. 

The first Thaal Pe Charcha in Pune city

Earlier, in April, a Bohra FGC survivor and activist from Pune city hosted a small Thaal Pe Charcha lunch at her own home. The survivor, who identifies herself with the pseudonym Xenobia, had participated in Sahiyo India’s 2019 Activists’ Retreat in January. One of the workshops at the retreat was about hosting one’s own Thaal Pe Charcha in order to expand the conversations about FGC to more people. Xenobia was one of the first participants to volunteer to host her own Thaal Pe Charcha after the workshop, and the lunch she hosted at her house had 7 participants. 

Read about Xenobia’s experience of hosting the lunch in her own words, by clicking here.

31 US States Now Have Laws Against Female Genital Cutting, But Government Will Not Appeal in the Federal Michigan Case

On April 10, the U.S. Department of Justice decided not to appeal the November 2018 judgement by a US District Court which ruled that the federal law banning Female Genital Cutting is unconstitutional. The District Court had stated that FGC is a “local criminal activity” to be handled at the state level and that Congress did not have the authority to enact the federal law under the commerce clause. While the Department of Justice cites such technicalities as the reason behind its decision not to appeal the District Court’s ruling, it has also urged Congress to address the flaws and problems with the federal law against FGC so that it can be strengthened.

The District Court’s ruling in November came in the case of Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and others, who were charged with performing/aiding female genital cutting in Detroit, Michigan, on nine minor girls.
Photo 3_US Legislative Update.png

In positive news, however, 31 out of 50 states in the USA now have laws banning Female Genital Cutting after IdahoArkansas, and Utah passed laws to that effect in the past few months.

The Idaho legislature passed a bill outlawing FGC on March 20, and the law will be effective from July. Utah state legislators unanimously passed a bill against FGC a week earlier, on March 14. Meanwhile, the law in Arkansas, passed in February, not only criminalises FGC but also provides for introducing awareness programmes about FGC.
18 states in the US have yet to pass their own laws banning genital cutting for girls and women, which is now vital since the District Court has ruled that FGC is a state-level crime.

Meanwhile, in India, a group of grassroots Muslim women’s organisations in India released a manifesto on March 28 for political parties to take up ahead of the 2019 national Parliamentary election in April and May. The manifesto includes the demand for a special law to ban female genital cutting in India. The Indian Supreme Court is currently hearing a set of petitions demanding a law against FGC, as well as a counter-petition defending FGC on the grounds of the constitutionally-guaranteed right to religious freedom. The liberal Muslim women’s groups that released their “women’s manifesto” hope that India’s leading political parties will commit to ending FGC in their own official election manifestos.

Sahiyo USA’s Second Annual Activist Retreat: A recap

To learn more about the activists retreat, read the summary report. 

In March 2019, Sahiyo U.S. hosted our second annual activist retreat for women connected to the Bohra community who are concerned about the issue of FGC within the community. Sahiyo understands it takes many to bring about social change, and as a result, we work with individuals, organizations, and coalitions in a collaborative fashion. As advocates and activists, we are better together and can find the best solutions if we collaborate and work as one.

The Sahiyo Activist retreat helps to build a network of U.S. based Bohra activists by 1) strengthening relationships with one another, 2) sharing best practices and providing tools for activists to utilize in their anti-FGC advocacy work moving forward. The retreat was also an opportunity for advocates/activists to discuss both the challenges and opportunities they face in advocating against FGC. This year, Sahiyo also initiated our peer support program, Saathi, a program attended to build a support system for activists. As per Sahiyo’s 2017 Activists Needs Assessment, findings suggest that having a support system in place was crucial towards building a critical mass of voices seeking to create change. Both the Activist Retreat and Saathi program seek to do so.

To read reflections from participants who attended the retreat, click here.