Seeing Sahiyo Stories on Female Genital Cutting Come to Life

Mariya Taher
Posted July 1, 2018 from United States
Sahiyo Stories Digital Storytelling Workshop Participants

By Mariya Taher

As an alumni of the Women’s Foundation of California’s Women’s Policy Institute, I was invited to attend a storytelling workshop hosted by StoryCenter in March 2017, in which I created a digital video story about my advocacy work to end Female Genital Cutting (FGC). I advocate against FGC because for centuries, women have been afraid to speak up–they fear being socially ostracized from their community, being labeled a victim, or getting their loved ones in trouble. For too long, a silence on this form of violence has existed within this country.  

I strive to be one of the individuals who continues to break that silence.

The result from the workshop was Shattered Silences, a video discussing my experience as a survivor of FGC and the power of storytelling in inspiring other women and men to come forward and speak against this harmful practice that has persisted for generations because of our community’s silence.

After participating in the workshop, and after seeing my video go live, I felt much pride in knowing I had shared my story, and most importantly, I felt that I had gained control over how I told my story. Since 2016, as my work on FGC has increased, and my name has become more publicly associated in media articles related to FGC, I have seen again and again how my story has been taken out of context and told by others in a way that at times has felt exploitive, or not quite right. (Watch American Survivors of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting Speak Out ). Creating Shattered Silences allowed me to take back agency over my story, which I had seen used to promote Islamaphobia and anti-immigrant fear, and tell it in a way that felt comfortable and in line with the message I wanted to share with others.

I began to wonder that if I felt that way, then perhaps other women and girls living in communities where FGC occurs might also feel that way. Soon after I had the idea of hosting a StoryCenter workshop focused on FGC, to bring together other women living in the U.S. who have been affected by FGC or who have family members who have been affected by FGC, and who wanted to lend their voices to ending this harmful practice in the United States, and globally.

Most people falsely believe FGC exists only in other parts of the world, and could never occur in the United States. But in April 2017, that misconception was shattered when a Detroit doctor was arrested for performing FGC on two seven-year-old girls. This doctor belonged to the same religious sect, Dawoodi Bohra, I grew up in, and the case showed that though laws banning the practice exist, FGC does continue to affect women living in the U.S.

I also wanted to show that FGC affects U.S. residents who come from all different backgrounds (economic, religious, education level, racial/ethnic, etc.).

For the next year, I fundraised to do just such a thing, and in May 2017, I called on my family, friends, and community to help bring an end to the silence around FGC and the practice by donating to a campaign to allow more women living in the United States to produce and share their stories publicly. The campaign raised close to $8,000, and in the fall of 2017, the Wallace Global Fund came onboard to provide an additional $10,000 to ensure that the women’s stories would be distributed far and wide.

Finally, in May 2018, with support from Sahiyo volunteers, I hosted the workshop with Amy Hill from StoryCenter, Orchid Pusey from Asian Women’s Shelter, and nine women from all over the country, who came together to create digital storytelling videos. The participants included a mixture of women differing in race/ethnicity, age, and citizenship/residency status, yet the one thing we all have in common is that we live in the United States. The women included Renee Bergstrom, Zehra Patwa, Maria Akhter, Salma Qumruddin, Maryah Haidery, Leena Khandwala, Aisha Yusuf, Severina Lemachokoti, and myself.

The three day digital storytelling workshop at StoryCenter allowed these women (who are now my friends and allies in the work to end FGC) to come together in a supportive environment where we could heal and reclaim the piece of ourselves that was lost when we underwent FGC or learned of others in our family who experienced it. Every woman was at a different phases of coming to terms with FGC, from only recently learning they had undergone it and beginning to grapple with its emotional and physical impacts, to being staunch advocates working to prevent FGC from happening to other girls, and their digital stories reflect it. Our joint hope in creating the videos is that by telling our stories, we will move towards building that critical mass of voices needed to prompt social change and demonstrate that in every community where FGC occurs, there is an increasing trend of support for abandoning this harmful practice.

As a writer who has loved words since I first learned how to read, I know how powerful stories are in creating change in the world. They spark our emotions and wake us up to our reality. Too often in everyday life, we try and connect with each other on a rational level, but this isn’t always enough to change behavior. People must be emotionally engaged to understand what needs to be done. StoryCenter’s digital storytelling platform allowed women to be the creators in sharing their stories in the manner they feel most comfortable with.

Currently, the videos are in post-production, but when they are ready to be shared broadly, we all hope that our stories will engage the broader community so that we can all ensure that FGC does not happen to the next generation of girls. We’re working on creating partnerships with various organizations and groups to host screenings of the stories and to support workshop participants in attending those events so that they can be present to answer any questions arising from the audiences. After all, these stories are theirs, making the women who created the digital stories the best teachers of all in learning how to support survivors and end female genital cutting once and for all.

Learn More about Sahiyo Stories here.

If you would like more information about Sahiyo Stories or to host a screening with the videos, contact mariya@sahiyo.com.

To see original post, click here - https://sahiyo.com/2018/05/15/seeing-sahiyo-stories-on-female-genital-cu...

If you would like to follow Sahiyo, here's how below!

Sahiyo website - https://sahiyo.com/Sahiyo Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/SahiyoBohrasSahiyo Twitter - @sahiyovoices Sahiyo Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIrd67_6niNRPQqJx2ic5swSahiyo Instagram - @Sahiyovoices

This post was submitted in response to #WealthofWomen.

Comments 28

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Olubee
Jul 01, 2018
Jul 01, 2018

Dear Mariya,thanks for the good work you are doing in bringing a total end to FGC.I am really surprised to read that this still happen in the US.This barbaric act needs to stop,it is a crime against womanhood.In Nigeria,its usually done quietly when the baby girl is newly born, though not done in govt or private hospitals,but the local centres midwives still engage in this act. You writing and working on FGC had awaken in me a new surge to also cry out and stand against it.Well done sis,on the good work you are doing.

Mariya Taher
Jul 01, 2018
Jul 01, 2018

Thank you for your kind words and I am so glad to hear that you feel inspired with a new energy to work against this violence against women and girls!

Tarke Edith
Jul 01, 2018
Jul 01, 2018

HELLO Mariya you are doing a marvelous job over there to stop FGC thank you for sharing this on our platform you know ,we as women if we join our voices together we are going to fight many social ills in our society

Mariya Taher
Jul 02, 2018
Jul 02, 2018

I agree completely! We all can be strong if we join together!

jlanghus
Jul 02, 2018
Jul 02, 2018

Hi Mariya. Welcome to World Pulse:-) Sorry to hear about Women Thrive disbanding but we are more than happy to have you and all the Women Thrive sisters join the amazing, WP sisterhood:-)

Thanks so much for sharing your amazing story and workshop with us. I agree that more momentum seems to be achieved when we engage people from the emotional realm versus purely from the rational side.

Does Sahiyo have any social media page(s) to follow/like/share?

You may want to apply for the Girl Rising story award/prize: https://www.girlrising.com/challenge to share your amazing story, screening and videos.

I'm looking forward to seeing more updates and posts from you.

Have a great day!

Mariya Taher
Jul 02, 2018
Jul 02, 2018
jlanghus
Jul 02, 2018
Jul 02, 2018

You're very welcome:-) Thanks for sharing. I'm following your organization now on FB and Twitter. You may want to add all these links to your story submission as it strengthens it.

Mariya Taher
Jul 02, 2018
Jul 02, 2018

Oh good idea! Will make that update!

jlanghus
Jul 02, 2018
Jul 02, 2018

Thanks :-)

Stephanie Mah
Jul 02, 2018
Jul 02, 2018

Hi Mariya.
You are doing a marvelous work by organizing to end FGC so that the next generation will not have to suffer.
Your story is so encouraging. Keep up my sister, we are behind you. Thanks for sharing.

Mariya Taher
Jul 02, 2018
Jul 02, 2018

Thank you so much, Stephanie! So great to feel supported by so many here!

Stephanie Mah
Jul 03, 2018
Jul 03, 2018

Thank God.

leila Kigha
Jul 04, 2018
Jul 04, 2018

Congratulations Mariya on your work. I am glad your voice is getting heard more and more. I look forward to a day when we will celebrate the end of such barbaric acts in the name of culture or religion.
Thank you for sharing with us and keep on keeping on

Mariya Taher
Jul 04, 2018
Jul 04, 2018

Thank you for reading. I agree. I look forward to that day too!

Sister Zeph
Jul 04, 2018
Jul 04, 2018

Dear Mariya thank you very much for sharing your story and for your efforts to stop FGC in America

Mariya Taher
Jul 06, 2018
Jul 06, 2018

Thank you for your support!

AGNES TUMASANG
Jul 05, 2018
Jul 05, 2018

My dear sister women are in trouble in fact my next story will on that do the women this favour because it will change peoples mentality

Mariya Taher
Jul 06, 2018
Jul 06, 2018

I look forward to reading it!

SIMON MUREU
Jul 05, 2018
Jul 05, 2018

GOOD works and I am going toread out some of these stories too

Mariya Taher
Jul 06, 2018
Jul 06, 2018

Great! =)

Chinyere Okoh
Jul 07, 2018
Jul 07, 2018

Hello Mariya. I am moved by the work you do and it's resounding impact. Keep it up. Thank you for sharing

Mariya Taher
Jul 09, 2018
Jul 09, 2018

Thanks so much for your support. =)

Chinyere Okoh
Jul 12, 2018
Jul 12, 2018

Anytime...

Ngala Nadege
Jul 08, 2018
Jul 08, 2018

Hello sister ,and thanks for sharing your story. I feel amazed with your work and awareness creation through workshops.FGC is barbaric and must end.

Mariya Taher
Jul 09, 2018
Jul 09, 2018
Rosylyne Nabaala
Jul 11, 2018
Jul 11, 2018

FGC survivor and a hero to the community and a change to the women and girls life, I'm happy to hear from you that you are doing advocacy and so many programs in the community.

Mariya Taher
Jul 11, 2018
Jul 11, 2018

Thank you so much for your supportive words! =)

Bim Adegbite
Jul 26, 2018
Jul 26, 2018

As I read your story on FGM in the United States and the current state of the law in Massachusett it was quite troubling and I had to check what was happening in my state, Michigan. I immediately came across this story and I'm still surprised that this is happening in the United States of America and some states still do not have laws to protect and prosecute. Thanks for sharing your story and I hope we all check our states and support those fighting in their states to make this happen.

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/fgm-among-us-united-states/

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