On 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.
In November 2019, Sahiyo and StoryCenter will partner with The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health to host a digital storytelling workshop in Washington, D.C. Sahiyo is advocating for the abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), while StoryCenter supports organizations in using storytelling and participatory media for social change.
The November workshop will focus on health and female genital cutting. With that focus in mind, Sahiyo extends an invitation to: 1) women over 18 years old, living in the United States, who have undergone FGM/C and who have a story to share about receiving healthcare in the U.S. or 2) health providers in the United States, of all genders (i.e. physicians, nurses, midwives, etc.) who have provided services to women who have undergone FGM/C.
Together these groups can highlight stories about the enduring impact of FGM/C on women’s health and/or inform health professionals of the kind of care and best practices health professionals need to be aware of when working with FGM/C survivors. The resulting short digital stories will be used to better educate health professionals on how to support survivors living in the U.S..
In 2018, Sahiyo, in partnership with StoryCenter, launched an inaugural digital storytelling workshop. Nine women’s stories have since elevated the conversation about FGM/C in the U.S. and globally. The stories were distributed online and via media channels, as well as at live community screening events. They are being used as educational tools to support discussion among survivors within their communities, with a focus on challenging the social norms sanctioning FGM/C, and encouraging an end to the practice.
Since 2015, Sahiyo has been advocating for the abandonment of FGM/C through dialogue, education and collaboration. Sahiyo conducted the first-ever international online survey of Dawoodi Bohra women on the subject of FGM/C. Read the full report here.
StoryCenter creates spaces for transforming lives and communities, through the acts of listening to and sharing stories as a vehicle for education, community mobilization, and advocacy. They collaborate with organizations around the world on workshops in story facilitation, digital storytelling, and other forms of participatory media production. Individuals are encouraged to register for storytelling workshops.
About The George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health:
GWU has been working closely with survivors and health care providers to develop a living virtual educational toolkit (fgmtoolkit.gwu.edu).
If you would like to participate in the workshop, apply by October 14th via this link: http://bit.ly/DC_VoicesEndFGMC.
View informational flyer here.
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.
This year, Sahiyo looks forward to continuing our partnership with StoryCenter, a community-arts organization that has for 20+ years worked with grassroots groups on participatory digital storytelling and media arts projects.
In 2018, Sahiyo and Story Center worked together on Sahiyo Stories, and will be expanding the project into this next chapter- The Voices to End FGM/C Project in 2019.
The next phase of this project will guide ten women who have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) through an online digital storytelling workshop and support them in sharing and audio recording their stories.
We are seeking women interested and available to participate in the workshop, which will be held via four webinar sessions scheduled for: Wed. June 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2019 (one-hour sessions, times to be determined). The stories will be illustrated with a combination of personal images (photos and video clips) to be provided by the storytellers, and images contributed by participating women artists. Final editing will be done by StoryCenter, with the goal of completing a set of videos in August 2019.
If you or someone you know would like to get involved as a storyteller with this project, please submit expressions of interest no later than May 15, 2019, through this online form.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with Amy Hill, from StoryCenter, at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Mariya Taher, from Sahiyo, at email@example.com
In May 2018, Sahiyo and StoryCenter, hosted a digital storytelling workshop where FGC survivors from across the U.S. could come together to share their experiences. In September 2018, the digital stories were released online and several screenings of the digital stories have occurred. Now, Sahiyo and StoryCenter have been named 1 of 3 winners for the ViiV Healthcare #EndFGM Positive Action Challenge. The #ENDFGM Positive Action Challenge supports innovative interventions to bring about a sustained change in attitudes and social norms towards ending FGC. In 2019, Sahiyo and StoryteCenter will work to expand the digital storytelling project to become “Voices to End FGM/C” by creating a web-based format so that survivors from around the world can use personal storytelling for social norm change on a global level.
Other winners of this challenge include Grandmother Project: Change Through Culture and Circuit Pointe.
If you would like more information about the project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In May 2018, the Sahiyo Stories project brought together nine women from across the United States to create personalized digital stories that narrate the experience of undergoing female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and/or the experience of their advocacy work to end this form of gender violence.
The video stories created at the workshop have since then been released on YouTube (you can watch them here). In November a public screening of Sahiyo Stories was held in Massachusetts.
Lesley University, Massachusetts
On November 9th, Sahiyo took part in Violence Against Women Conference hosted by Lesley University. This day-long, interdisciplinary event aimed to “provide a platform for scholars, artists and community activists to explore the interplay between global representations of violence against women and historical and contemporary discourses.” Sahiyo held a screening of the Sahiyo Stories digital stories, with an introduction on ‘What is Female Genital Cutting’ by Sahiyo co-founder Mariya Taher, and a post-viewing Questions & Answers session with Renee Bergstrom, one of the Sahiyo story participants.
At the Lesley University screening, the audience included a mixture of folks, with a majority of the participants being Lesley students interested in gender equity, human rights, international women’s issues or a unique cross of these fields.
Here’s what Lara Kingstone, Sahiyo’s Communication Assistant had to say about the event:
The Q&A session allowed for followed was a frank and informative discussion of FGC, social change, and the nature of community traditions. Having both Mariya and Renee present added a layer of personal connection to the screening, and I believe that guests and facilitators alike (and myself, the Communications Assistant!) came away feeling energized, informed and connected by the session. ~ Lara
Recently on Facebook, I noted that real social change usually happens when people are good enough to care about doing the right thing, thoughtful enough to figure out the best ways to do it, and brave enough to actually go through with it. On December 4th, in Washington DC, I was fortunate enough to meet a roomful of such people. I was there representing Sahiyo at an event called ‘Using Data and Community Engagement to Better Focus FGM Prevention Interventions’ sponsored by the US End FGM/C Network and The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
The event included an exceptional presentation by Sean Callaghan from the organization, 28 Too Many on how government agencies and NGOs can use data to track populations where FGM/C may be most prevalent and how best to engage with these populations. It also included a screening of Sahiyo Stories, a series of digital stories by nine different women, including myself, detailing our personal experiences with FGM/C and/or advocacy. I had volunteered to introduce Sahiyo Stories in place of Mariya Taher who was unable to attend the event. Despite some technical difficulties, I tried to summarize Mariya’s history with StoryCenter and the collaboration which culminated in Sahiyo Stories and the short behind-the-scenes video showing how we made the videos and what we hoped to gain from them.
Since this would be my first time seeing the videos with a large audience, I was a little nervous. But when Mariya’s voice came on, the room grew absolutely silent and by the end, quite a few people seemed visibly moved. During the Q&A period following the screening, I was struck by the number of people who wanted to know how they could find out more about FGM/C and what they could do to help even though this was not a problem that affected their communities. Afterward, several people from other organizations working to end FGM/C approached me with interesting suggestions on using Sahiyo Stories in conjunction with their apps and projects in order to make a greater impact on government officials or healthcare workers or educators. As I looked around the room at all these people who cared so passionately about ending this practice – people who were good and thoughtful and brave, it made me more confident than ever before that real social change was a real possibility.
To learn more about Sahiyo Stories, read:
On October 19 in Oakland, California, Sahiyo, in collaboration with StoryCenter, Asian Women’s Shelter, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence hosted a screening of Sahiyo Stories that included a behind the scenes short film documenting the women’s experiences in creating their digital stories.
Sahiyo Stories involved bringing together nine women from across the United States to create personalized digital stories that narrate experiences of female genital cutting (FGC). These nine women, who differ in race/ethnicity, age, and citizenship/residency status, each shared a story addressing a different challenge with FGM/C. Some women who had only recently discovered they had undergone FGM/C were grappling with its emotional and physical impacts, while others were invested in advocacy to prevent it from happening to more girls. The collection is woven together with a united sentiment and a joint hope that the videos will build a critical mass of voices from within FGM/C-practicing communities, calling for the harmful practice’s abandonment.
A panel discussion on female genital cutting followed the screening, and the greater connection FGC has to gender-based violence.
To learn more about Sahiyo Stories, read:
On October 19 in Oakland, California, Sahiyo, in collaboration with StoryCenter, Asian Women’s Shelter, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence will host a screening of Sahiyo Stories with a behind the scenes short film documenting the women’s experiences in creating their digital stories, followed by a panel discussion on FGC.
To RSVP for the event, visit http://bit.ly/SahiyoStoriesOct
As a reminder, the project brought together nine women from across the United States to create personalized digital stories that narrate the experience of undergoing female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and/or the experience of their advocacy work to end this form of gender violence. You can watch all these brave women’s stories by visiting the Sahiyo Stories YouTube Playlist.
If you’re interested in learning more about the project or hosting a screening of Sahiyo Stories, contact email@example.com
By Maryah Haidery
Last December I participated in a Sahiyo activist retreat where I learned the unique power that storytelling has to teach, stimulate, and inspire audiences while offering the storyteller a sense of empowerment and catharsis. That’s why I was excited to reunite with some of the brave women I met on that retreat for a three-day storytelling workshop this past May. Since I didn’t have a clear memory of my own khatna, I decided to focus on the aspect of it which did have a profound effect on me: my relationship with my mother and my struggle to understand her decision.
Although I am and always have been opposed to the practice of FGC, I was nevertheless upset by the ways in which the women who practiced it were portrayed as “heartless monsters” or “unforgiveable child abusers” by the media and by anti-Muslim bigots who were using it as an excuse to justify their stance against immigration. In an effort to change this perception, I agreed to sit down with my mother to discuss FGC with a local radio news reporter. I hoped this would encourage people to see her as a person and try to understand her motivations for doing what she did even if they didn’t agree with it.
I love my mother dearly, but I think the interview left me with more questions than answers, and I wanted to explore a little bit of those conflicting emotions in the story I told in the workshop. I hope my story helps other women who might be going through the same emotions as I did to know that they aren’t alone and that it is OK to not have everything figured out. Everyone needs to decide for themselves what they want or need from the relationships in their lives and if a relationship is worth keeping. Sometimes forgiveness is important – not for the other person, but for yourself.
At first I was really nervous about sharing my story with everyone, but all the women in the workshop were incredibly supportive and encouraging and made the workshop truly worthwhile. I also felt honored to be able to experience each of their incredible and unique stories. In three short days we had bonded over shared experiences, (and incredible food) so even though I only had two sisters when I first arrived at the workshop, by the time I left, I had eleven.
To learn more about Sahiyo Stories, read:
- Seeing Sahiyo Stories on Female Genital Cutting Come to Life.
- The inner-workings of Sahiyo Stories
- The Making of Sahiyo Stories
More about Maryah Haidery:
Maryah Haidery is a medical writer from New Jersey. She graduated from Temple University with a doctorate in pharmacy and completed her post-doctoral fellowship in medical communications at a medical communications company in Princeton. Her interests include writing about oncology, pain management and rare diseases and mentoring students at the University of the Sciences where she served as Adjunct Clinical Instructor. Maryah only recently became aware of the Sahiyo movement through a family member. Although she is new to activism, she believes that it is vitally important to shine light on the long taboo subject of female circumcision in hopes of encouraging real and lasting change. She thinks this is only possible if we can confront the complicated mix of ideas surrounding khatna and critically appraise the practice without necessarily denigrating the people who practice it.