Saathi is Sahiyo’s activist support program launched to connect novice activists with more veteran activists as a way to help activists find support and think through the self-care they need to be able to continue engaging in this advocacy work. This peer support program was created to support the mental health/well-being of activists, and in turn encourage additional community members to speak openly about ending Female Genitla Cutting (FGC). Activists serving as Senior peers can also help Novice peers by guiding them on best practices relating to FGC communication (i.e. how to have difficult dialogues with family-friends.)
In 2017, Sahiyo released the findings of the first-ever global study on the prevalence of FGC in the Bohra community. Of the 385 participants, we found 81% had undergone FGC. We also found that 80% didn’t want FGC to continue on the next generation, highlighting a silence on this issue that aided in its continuation from generation to generation.
Sahiyo engages in storytelling initiatives to break this silence, as well as to counter the shame, stigma, and/or taboo associated with FGC in hopes of activating people to become agents of change. Yet, we continue to be aware that being an agent of change can come with challenges of its own.
A Needs Assessment carried out by a healthcare market research consultancy in partnership with Sahiyo, found that the most significant challenges activists face when speaking out stems from the high degree of overlap between religion and community in the Bohra community. Speaking against FGC is seen as an attack on the community and faith at large and as a result, activists fear that speaking out would lead to discontinued social and professional bonds and ceasing of access to religious privileges. In fact, 56% of activists reported a family member reacting negatively to their activism.
The Saathi program was created to respond to this need, to ensure that activists have support as they do the brave and difficult but essential work to prevent future generations from undergoing FGC.