Volume 2: Issue 3 - Learn about Sahiyo's anti-fgc work in our newsletters

Sahiyo Newsletter 

United Against Female Genital Cutting

Sahiyo at the Difficult Dialogues conference on health in India

From February 10 to 12, Sahiyo co-founders Aarefa Johari and Shaheeda Tavawalla 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”. Panel discussions were held over three days at the International Centre, Goa, and the distinguished list of panelists included leading doctors, policy makers, activists, bureaucrats and grassroots public health workers from India as well as England.

In a panel on how gender affects one’s healthcare, Shaheeda spoke about the little-known topic of Female Genital Cutting in India, how it affects Bohra girls and women, and the need for the Indian medical community to voice its stand on the practice. Aarefa, meanwhile, participated in a panel on the use of art, film, and dialogue in building sustainable community healthcare. She spoke about Sahiyo’s use of films and storytelling to generate a dialogue around FGC among Bohras and the challenges associated with it.  

The Difficult Dialogues conference also included impressive panels on mental health, cancer, childbirth, health technologies and organ donation, among many others. At the end of each session, the panelists drew up lists of policy recommendations for various stakeholders to look into.

In the run-up to the conference, Aarefa also wrote a blog post for the British Medical Journal on the need for doctors to speak up about FGC in India. To read the blog, click here.

Sahiyo blog post wins a Laadli Media Award

A Bohra woman’s personal essay about her experience of Female Genital Cutting, published on Sahiyo’s blog last year, won the prestigious Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity 2015-16. The essay, titled ‘It was a part of me…part of my womanhood‘, won the award for Best Blog in the ‘Web-blogs’ category in the eighth edition of the Western region Laadli Awards, which celebrate gender sensitive advertising and journalism in India.

The award ceremony was held at Ahmedabad’s Gujarati Sahitya Parishad on February 23, with prominent dancer and artiste Mallika Sarabhai as the chief guest.The winning essay describes the author’s memory of undergoing ‘Khatna’ and her struggle to come to terms with it.

This essay was among the first few accounts of Bohra women willing to share their stories on Sahiyo’s blog when it launched in December 2015. Sahiyo believes in the power of storytelling and this blog is a story-sharing platform for all those who feel passionately about khatna or FGC and who wish to see the practice end.

To read more about the award, click here.

Speaking to students about FGC on the eve of Women’s Day

On March 7, Mumbai’s prestigious Nirmala Niketan College of Social Sciences invited Sahiyo co-founders Insia Dariwala and Aarefa Johari to speak at a Women’s Day panel discussion on the theme of ‘Be Bold for Change’. The event was attended by more than a hundred students from the institute, many of whom had not heard about the practice of Female Genital Cutting among the Bohras before.

Aarefa and Insia gave the students an overview of the practice of khatna through their personal stories, and also spoke about the growing movement against the practice. After the session, students had a number of questions about the challenges faced by those who speak out, the reasons behind the practice and the possible approaches that the movement could explore.

The panel also included feminist lawyer Audrey D’Mello who spoke about domestic violence, LBT-rights activist Koninika Roy who spoke about bisexuality and Marathi poet Raghunath Deshmukh who spoke about how men can change their mindsets towards women.

A Pinch of Skin screens at London School of Economics

On March 3, Sahiyo co-founder Priya Goswami’s film, A Pinch of Skin, screened at London School of Economics, followed by a discussion on ‘Decolonizing gaze of FGC/M’. This theme is relevant to be able to understand the practice as a global issue and to report on the subject using culturally sensitive language and visuals.

Some of the key points discussed were mainstreaming FGC as a global issue as opposed to it being falsely propagated as an ‘African problem’. The documentary was followed by a news clip of Reza Aslan’s interview with CNN, where he proclaims the practice to be an African practice, as opposed to being an Islamic tradition.

The screening was attended by co-founders Priya Goswami and Mariya Taher, who argued for the need to decolonize the gaze even as Asians try to distance themselves from the practice by calling ‘FGM’ - as opposed to Khatna or circumcision - a foreign problem.

Priya and Mariya spoke of practice of ‘Khatna’ as a cultural norm passed down as a tradition. This makes it necessary to adopt a community-sensitive approach while working to change mindsets and personal beliefs.




Suleimani Bohras speak up about Khatna

The Bohras are the only community known to practice FGC in India so far, but contrary to popular perception, the Dawoodi Bohras are not the only sub-sect practicing it. The Suleimanis and Alvis, two other smaller sub-sects of the larger Bohra sect, have also been practicing Khatna for generations, as secretly as the Dawoodis. Sahiyo has been working to reach out to members of these communities too, and in March, Sahiyo published a series of three blog posts to better understand the practice of Khatna among Suleimanis.

In her personal essay, Shabnam Muqbil shared her memories of being cut as a child while on vacation in Mumbai. Here is an excerpt from her story:

“At six one can have indelible memories of one’s childhood and so it is that amongst the happy memories that I remember one of pain as well… I remember being sat up against the wall, legs splayed out and this old lady taking a knife to me and then the searing pain…. I probably cried a lot, strangely I don’t recall, I also don’t remember leaving those premises – hobbling out would probably be the more appropriate term. But I remember the pain and the burning sensation and the bloody underwear every time I had to visit the toilet. I remember not wanting to go to the toilet because it would hurt so much. And I remember not being able to run and play, which I loved so much to do.” (Read the whole story here)

In another post, Muqbil’s husband Koen Van den Brande shared his learnings about the attitudes of Suleimanis towards Khatna and the possible ways forward if we wish to end the practice (Read here). Sahiyo co-founder Shaheeda Tavawalla also interviewed Muqbil and Brande to better understand the Suleimani community itself, its similarities and differences from the Dawoodi Bohras, and the manner in which the Suleimanis practice Khatna (Read here).

Petition Update: Invest in Research, and Support in Asia

Sahiyo and 33 other civil society organizations from across the world have joined together to launch a petition that calls upon the global community, particularly the United Nations, international foundations and donor countries/agencies, to invest in more funding and support towards research, data collection, advocacy and survivor-centred support facilities in the above-mentioned Asian countries. The petition has garnered media attention and to date has collected close to 4,378 signatures.

To learn more about the petition, click here.
To sign the petition, click here.

More News on FGC...

Copyright © 2017 Sahiyo, All rights reserved. Sahiyo's mission is to empower Asian communities to end female genital cutting and create positive social change through dialogue, education and collaboration based on community involvement. You signed up for our newsletter to receive more information on our organization's activities in this endeavor.
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