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 khatna.
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 khatna. That is how Sahiyo, the organization, was born. Sahiyo is dedicated to empowering Asian communities to end female genital cutting (FGC) and create 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 or khatna.
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
- Thaal pe Charcha program launched in New York.
- Second US Thaal pe Charcha program launched in Berkeley, CA
- Inaugural screening of Sahiyo Stories held in Oakland, California, followed by screenings in Massachusetts and Washington DC
- Sahiyo US establishes a U.S. Advisory Board to guide directions of organization.
- ‘Saathi’ peer support program launched to support activists in all levels of their advocacy journey
- 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
- In 2019, Sahiyo hosted 3 workshops for the Voices to End FGM/C project: The first, in June, was a pilot online workshop that allowed for participants from all over the world. The second one was in September in Asheville, North Carolina (partnered with Threads for Wellbeing), and the third was held in Washington DC, in November (Partnered with George Washington University School of Public Health).
- Sahiyo India hosts Second Annual Activists’ Retreat in Mumbai
- Sahiyo U.S. hosts Second Annual Activist Retreat in New York
- Faces for Change photo campaign 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.
- Sahiyo launches Male Ally Campaign
- Sahiyo took part in FemmeCon, India’s first women’s health festival organised by TheaCare, a multimedia knowledge platform for women’s health, which uses interactive technologies to inform & empower women. The event took place on 7th-8th December 2019, where photos and quotes of FGC survivors who participated in Sahiyos 2019 Faces for Change campaign were on display at an exhibition
- On February 1st, Sahiyo Co-Founder, Insia Dariwala was invited to speak on FGM/C at the 63rd annual conference of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, AICOG, in Lucknow, India. The conference was attended by 10,000 doctors from the Ob/Gyn field, and the focus this year was on Women’s Sexual Health.
- Twenty-seven new digital stories from the Voices to End FGM/C were officially released starting on February 6, International Zero Tolerance Day on FGM/C, with one survivor video being released every week.
- Due to COVID-19, Sahiyo changed the format for our third annual activist retreat to an online, virtual Activist Retreat and hosted it in April 2020.
- On April 16, Sahiyo co-founder Aarefa partnered with StoryCenter’s Silence Speaks program to offer a safe, online space where South Asian women’s personal struggles and moments of courage could be shared and virtual community could be cultivated.
- On April 21, Sahiyo partnered with API-GBV and U.S. End FGM/C Network for educational webinar aiming to explore FGM/C in the United States, its connection to the broader anti-gender-based violence movement, and learning about the intervention and community engagement efforts occurring in this country.
- In May, Sahiyo & Story-Center hosted a COVID-19 storytelling session for Voices to End FGM/C alumni to continue building community through the pandemic
- On May 26, Sahiyo co-founder Aarefa Johari and Retty Ratnawati from Indonesia’s Komnas Perempuan spoke during a global webinar hosted by human rights lawyer Annemarie Middelburg to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in Asian countries and communities.
- On June 13, Sahiyo co-founder Priya Goswami gave a keynote speech titled “Bringing Change through an On-ground Movement” at India’s first student-run online festival, Intesaab Fest 2020.
- On June 25, Mariya Taher, U.S. Executive Director and co-founder of Sahiyo, and Farzana Esmail, survivor, mother and advocate, sat down together for a virtual fireside chat on female genital cutting: part interview, part sincere exchange of stories, and part education.
- On July 22, Sahiyo’s Aarefa Johari participates in Equality Now’s Twitter Live on “Ending Female Genital Mutilation: Why It matters for Gender Equality in Asia.”
- On July 30, Sahiyo joined forces with the Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation and the Council of the Great City Schools to host the webinar “Learning about Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in the Classroom: The Importance of Nationwide Education as a Tool for Prevention.”
- Sahiyo hosts first-ever virtual Thaal Pe Charcha with thirteen participants from the Bohra community in the COVID world July 2020.
- Voices to End FGM/C alumna Mariam Sabir’s presentation on Sahiyo’s storytelling workshop is selected for virtual display at the July 2020 AAFP National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students.
Awards & Distinctions Received
- 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 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.
- Recognized by Population Reference Bureau as one of six inspiring organizations working on ending FGM/C in 2018
- In 2019, Sahiyo was awarded a winner (1 of 3) 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 July 2020, U.S. Executive Director and Sahiyo co-founder Mariya Taher receives one of five Crave Foundation for Women grants in recognition of her advocacy against FGC.
- In October 2020, the Sunhak Peace Prize Foundation recognized one of the Voices to End FGM/C videos as an “Honorable Mention” in the 2020 Peace Motion Graphics Contest.