Volume 1: Issue 10 - Learn about Sahiyo's anti-fgc work in our newsletters

Sahiyo Newsletter 

United Against Female Genital Cutting

Talking about Gender Justice at the Islamic Society of North America Annual Conference

On Sunday September 4th, Sahiyo’s cofounder, Mariya Taher, participated on a panel entitled, “Gender Justice: A Discussion with Policymakers, Religious Actors, and Activists” at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

The Secretary’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of State partnered with Muslim community leaders and organizations to promote gender justice in issues ranging from calls for greater inclusion of women of faith in peacebuilding to advocating against gender-based violence, including female genital cutting. The panel brought together a diverse set of religious actors, policymakers, and civil society activists to address promoting gender justice within Muslim communities, both domestically and globally. The panel was moderated by Arsalan Suleman and the speakers included Maryum Saifee, Hind Makki, Mariya Taher, Reyhana Patel.

Both Mariya and Reyhana addressed the topic of FGC and how their organizations are working towards shedding light on this form of gender violence, often misperceived as a practice rooted in religion. Mariya discussed Sahiyo’s storytelling platform that has crowdsourced testimonials from members of the Dawoodi Bohra community on FGC. Rehyana, from Islamic Relief Canada discussed her report on FGC in Indonesia. The panel also addressed the powerful work of women religious leaders in peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance.

To learn about the “Gender Justice” panel, read more here.

Sahiyo conducts a guest session with young girl students in Mumbai

On September 3rd, Sahiyo’s Mumbai team was invited to give a talk to college students enrolled in the Pehchaan programme run by Sahyog, a reputed non-profit organisation providing support to women and children from marginalised communities. Sahyog’s ‘Pehchaan’ initiative offers skills-training and mentorship programmes to students from low-income families at the PN Doshi College for Women. Every few weeks, as a part of Pehchaan, Sahyog invites guest speakers to conduct guest sessions about breakthroughs in their fields of work, and about issues related to identity, gender, women’s rights, character strengths and leadership.

At the event on September 3, Sahiyo co-founders Shaheeda Tavawalla-Kirtane and Aarefa Johari conducted a two-hour session with first- and second-year Home Science students of PN Doshi College. The subject of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) was new to almost all the students, and they participated with great interest and enthusiasm in discussions on various aspects of the topic. During discussions, it also emerged that most of the girls did not know of the existence of the clitoris. This led to a lively discussion on anatomy, sexuality and sexual pleasure.

We also spoke about how the practice of FGC is a social norm much like many other norms prevalent in all our cultures. The students spontaneously related this to norms that repress women had in their own worlds -- and most prominent among them were menstrual taboos. It was overwhelming to see how, towards the end of the session, so many students expressed enthusiasm to create small movements against these norms in their own ways.

To read the full report on the event, click here.

FGM/C from an artist’s perspective: Art for cultural change

Katya Berger (left) and Owanto (right) with FGC survivor Alifya Sulemanji, who was featured in The Flower Project. Art offers another platform to increase visibility and raise awareness about this global issue. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Bringing the taboo of FGM/C into the light will help people understand that these cultural traditions can and should be revisited.  

Owanto is currently working with her producer, her daughter, Katya Lucia Berger on a “vocal piece” that is collecting the voices of survivors that they have interviewed and will interview.

“The Vocal Piece” will involve the participation of 30 women from the 30 countries most affected by FGC. The piece will be a melange of voices, accents, and languages recorded on the iphone to represent that fact that FGC is a global problem that should be addressed on a global scale. The inclusion of women who have not been affected by this practice as a result of families going against the social norm is also crucial to this piece. It is important to recognise their efforts to bring about change.

To read the full article, visit the Sahiyo blog.

If you would like to add your voice and your story to the Flower Project, please be in touch at or at Katya Berger

#NOMoreKhatna Twitter Conversation on Khatna on Storify

On July 7, 2016, Sahiyo hosted a Twitter chat on Female Genital Cutting (FGC) from Twitter handle, @sahiyo2016, using hashtag #NoMoreKhatna to discuss FGC in the Dawoodi Bohra community. Due to the need to build a conversation around the topic of FGC in Asia and amongst Asian diaspora communities, Sahiyo has recapped the entire Twitter conversation using Storify. To read the full transcript, visit Sahiyo on Storify. To read the highlights from the Sahiyo Twitter chat, visit the Sahiyo blog.

Volunteer Spotlight: Mariya Ali

Sahiyo is an organization with the mission to empower Asian communities to end female genital cutting through community collaboration and this work could not be done without dedicated volunteers supporting us. Mariya Ali is a U.K. based volunteer who has been with Sahiyo for over a year now. She is a proficient writer and has a fine eye for detail and has supported Sahiyo in crafting our monthly newsletters and contributing blogs to Sahiyo’s website. To learn more about how she has supported our work, check out her entire interview on the Sahiyo blog.

How has your involvement with Sahiyo impacted your life?
For many years I couldn't really connect with anyone about what had happened to me - it was an unspoken event and a memory that I wasn't able to understand. I've found a network of people who are supportive and understanding and we all have a common goal. I've found a forum where I can ask questions. I also feel like I am finally part of something that is making an impact and part of a collective voice that is finally being heard.

Working with Sahiyo has given me a deep sense of contentment. The pinnacle for me was when a friend of mine, who is a mother of 2 young girls, told me that through reading the articles that I shared, she had decided not to perform FGC on her daughters. Something as simple as sharing a post can have a significant impact.





Survivor Story: ‘I am not traumatized but I still want khatna to stop’

Among the Dawoodi Bohras, girls are consciously circumcised at the age of seven - when they are supposedly young enough to forget the pain but old enough to remember the tradition and carry it on. But do all Bohra girls experience their khatna in a common, uniform manner? Despite what many from outside the community may assume, the answer is No. Some suffer lasting physical damage, some feel emotionally violated, some experience sexual difficulties while others feel completely unaffected. And some, like this anonymous writer who was cut in a medical facility in the USA, want the practice to end despite never being ‘at risk’. Here is an excerpt:

“For the record, I have never been mutilated. I am not traumatized, damaged, or broken. Yes, something unfortunate happened to me that I wish had not; but I do not want to be labeled a survivor. Personally, I feel the word is inappropriate to my situation because my life was never at risk. What I do want is to live in a world where what happened to me no longer happens to others. The reason I want this is because although I have come to forgive my loved ones, accept what has happened to me, and move past the trauma, not everyone who has undergone khatna has been so fortunate.”

Read the whole story here and watch our blog for more personal narratives, in-depth articles and much more.

If you would like to share your own story involving khatna or female genital cutting, send us an e-mail at Stories can be shared via our Sahiyo newsletter and blog anonymously or publicly.

Video Watch: Great video from FGM/C survivors from United Kingdom

This video makes a great case of understanding FGM/C from the point of view of someone who has undergone it and establishes the practices not just as an "African problem", but a global issue.  Do watch!

Sahiyo and Love Matters collaborate to share narratives

Sahiyo is happy to announce that Love Matters India and Sahiyo collaboration is off to a great start. Love Matters India has built a resource page for information on Female Genital Cutting worldwide and have shared this Sahiyo narrative as a part of their ongoing campaign on sharing narratives on FGC.

This narrative has received a tremendous response with 4,319 page hits for their English website and 14,946 for their Hindi website, as quoted by Love Matters. Do stay tuned to to follow more stories.

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