Sahiyo began in early 2015 as a conversation between five women who felt strongly about the ritual of female genital cutting (khatna) in the Bohra community. The group includes a social worker, a researcher, two filmmakers, and a journalist, and all of them had already been speaking out, in their own ways, against the practice of female genital cutting (FGC).
As their collaboration grew, they realized the need for an organized, informed forum within the community that could help drive a movement to bring an end to FGC. That is how Sahiyo, the organization, was born. Sahiyo is dedicated to empowering Asian communities to end FGC and creating positive social change. By working towards an FGC-free world, Sahiyo aims to recognize and emphasize the values of consent and a child’s/woman’s right over her own body and to enable a culture in which female sexuality is not feared or suppressed but embraced as normal.
Sahiyo is the Bohra Gujarati word for ‘saheliyo’, or friends, and reflects their organization’s mission to engage in dialogue with the community to find a collective solution towards ending FGC.
The NGO has received international recognition for its community-based approach in addressing FGC through research, public awareness campaigns, their website’s story-sharing platform, and advocacy initiatives. See bottom of page: Awards Received.
- Founded in December 2015
- Launched undertaking of global study on Khatna/FGC among Dawoodi Bohra women
- Participated in first-ever conference for Asian anti-FGC advocates in Singapore, organised by Wadi and Aware.
- Launch of Each One Reach One campaign with WeSpeakOut
- Launch of I am Bohra photo campaign
- Spoke at 60th Annual Commission on the Status of Women Conference side event in New York
- Sahiyo and University Women’s Association (UWA), along with the Poona Women’s Council, the Family Planning Association of India, Women’s Studies Center, ILS Law College, Pune Women’s Forum, Miloon Saryajani, Nari Samata Manch, General Practitioners Association, Speak Out on FGM and Sassoon Hospital organized a program that aimed towards creating a dialogue amongst stakeholders on female genital cutting in Pune.
- Spoke at Women Deliver Conference side event in Copenhagen.
- Sahiyo partnered with Breakthrough. Stories from survivors of FGC and their allies went live on Breakthrough’s digital storytelling platform, THE G WORD: Transforming gender norms, one story at a time.
- Wallace Global Fund awarded grant to support organizational setup.
- Sahiyo launched its first Twitter chat to foster dialogue on FGC among Bohras.
- Nari Smata Manch recognized ‘Sahiyo’ for its contributions to build a dialogue around FGC with the ‘Daughter of Maharashtra’ Award.
- Mariya and Shaheeda attended the Tostan Training Centre (TTC) in Senegal as Orchid Project Fellows. Their trainings serve individuals and groups who share a commitment to human dignity, transformative learning, holistic empowerment, and collective action.
- Hosted media workshop in partnership with the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), training journalists on how to sensitively report on FGC.
- Participated in the “Gender Justice” panel session at the Islamic Society of North America Annual Conference.
- Led discussion at the Justice and Peace Commission in Mumbai.
- Participated in “Orange the World” campaign, highlighting orange as a bright and optimistic color to signal a future free of gender-based violence.
- Participated End Violence Against Girls: Summit on FGM/C in Washington, DC, at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
- Launched a change.org petition calling on the U.N. and other international bodies to invest more research and support towards ending FGC in Asia. The petition was launched in collaboration with 33 organizations from around the world
- Released media toolkit to help media report on the topic of female genital cutting in a manner that promotes abandonment within communities.
- Released results of a two-year exploratory study on FGC within the Dawoodi Bohra community. The study showed that 81% of the survey participants wanted FGC to end within the community
- Participated as delegates at Difficult Dialogues, an annual conference on issues of national interest in Goa, India. Organised in affiliation with University College London, the theme of the 2017 conference was “India’s health – A grand challenge”.
- Held first Thaal Pe Charcha (loosely translated as ‘discussions over food’), in which 16 Bohra women were invited to discuss — for the first time — the challenges of living as young girls and women in the tightly knit Dawoodi Bohra community. Read about subsequent Thaal Pe Charcha events in India here.
- A Sahiyo blog contributor’s essay about her personal experience of FGC won South Asia’s first ever Laadli Media And Advertising Award for Gender Sensitivity, founded by Population First.
- Sahiyo and WeSpeakOut launched the second edition of Each One Reach One to coincide with the holy month of Ramzan.
- Released an investigative report that brought to light that FGC was occurring in Kerala.
- Joined Alliance for Inclusive Muslims, a global coalition that works against radicalism within Islam, violence against women and other human rights abuses, as well as Islamophobia.
- Sahiyo spoke at Hilton Humanitarian Symposium in Los Angeles, California on empowering the silent to speak.
- Hosted a roundtable with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to discuss how to work in a way that is culturally appropriate, with children and families in the state, in cases involving female genital cutting.
- Attended the European Forum to Build Bridges on FGM to take part in transnational, cross-border cooperation on ending FGC globally.
- Was spotlighted at the We The Women Conference on a panel “Unveiling the horror of Female Genital Cutting” in Mumbai, India.
- Hosted first-ever U.S. Bohra Anti-FGC Activists Retreat to strengthen relationships amongst advocates and build collaborative approaches towards working to end FGC in the U.S. This was followed by the first Bohra Anti-FGC Activists Retreat in Mumbai, for activists located all over India.
- Released results from study on learning how to support Anti-FGC Activist in their advocacy work.
- Partnered with Women in Film and Television International India to organise first-ever on-ground storytelling event in Mumbai, India. “Storytelling with Sahiyo,” featured four critically-acclaimed Indian film actors who performed narrative readings of the personal stories of four Female Genital Cutting survivors.
- Hosted Sahiyo Stories workshop in collaboration with StoryCenter, to bring together nine women from across the United States to create personalized digital stories that narrate experiences of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). These nine women, who differ in race/ethnicity, age, and citizenship/residency status, each shared a story addressing a different challenge with FGM/C. 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. The videos were released to the public in August 2018
- Launched a pilot Thaal pe Charcha program in New York and California.
- ‘Saathi’ peer support program launched to support activists in all levels of their advocacy journey
- Sahiyo India hosts Second Annual Activists’ Retreat in Mumbai
- Sahiyo U.S. hosts Second Annual Activist Retreat in New York
- Faces for Change photo campaigned launched to highlight survivors of FGC
- Sahiyo is part of planning committee for pre-conference on FGC at the 2019 Women Deliver conference in Vancouver
- Sahiyo co-hosts inaugural roundtable to raise awareness of FGC in Massachusetts and build a state coalition to actively address the issue.
- Nari Smata Manch recognized ‘Sahiyo’ for its contributions to build a dialogue around FGC with the ‘Daughter of Maharashtra’ Award in 2016
- A Sahiyo blog contributor’s essay about her personal experience of FGC won South Asia’s first ever Laadli Media and Advertising Award for Gender Sensitivity, founded by Population First in 2017
- Sahiyo recognized by Population Reference Bureau as one of six inspiring organizations working on ending FGM/C.
- Sahiyo received a Shoor Veer Award in 2018
- Sahiyo co-founder Aarefa Johari and independent writer-activist Aysha Mahmood won the Laadli Media and Advertising Award for Gender Sensitivity, 2018 for their investigation revealing the prevalence of FGC in Kerala.
- Sahiyo co-founder Mariya Taher won the Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) Human Rights and Storytellers Award for work on the Sahiyo Stories project.