A new video series that aims to empower survivors and people impacted by female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM) was released on Thursday to honor the United Nation’s International Day of Zero Tolerance Towards FGM.
FGM is the process of intentionally altering or injuring the female genital organs for non-medical reasons that it is practiced across various cultures and religions.
The organizations StoryCenter and Sahiyo released 27 short videos online as part of a project called Voices to End FGM/C, which was created by FGM survivors and advocates from countries around the world.
Mariya Taher, Sahiyo’s co-founder and US executive director, discovered that storytelling helped her to feel less alone at an early age. Now, she is giving others the tools to do the same.
“We have seen a ripple effect occur in sharing stories on this issue,” Taher told Global Citizen. “It propels others to share their stories, convinces people to not have their daughter undergo this practice, and overall helps break a sense of isolation that someone is the only one experiencing a certain pain.”
In only a few minutes, each video highlights the long-lasting negative effects of FGM on survivors and their families.
Ahead of February 6th, International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, this video by @swordy786, part of #VoicestoEndFGMC project, is the first of 27 videos to be released over the next coming months. This project was made in collaboration with @storycenter. https://t.co/t516R9hJaj— Sahiyo (@sahiyovoices) February 3, 2020
FGM is a cultural tradition practiced around the world and it is estimated that at least 200 million women worldwide have undergone the procedure.
The practice is thought to help a young girl transition to adulthood and marriage, but does just the opposite. FGM is an internationally recognized human rights violation that threatens women’s health — it causes severe bleeding, a higher risk of HIV transmissions, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth, and an increased risk of newborn deaths.
Activist Maryum Saifee remembers blacking out at the age of 7 in a basement clinic in India when her aunt cut her without her parents’ consent.
Read More: FGM Among Us
“When it was over I sat in the corner with a candy bar, sick to my stomach,” Saifee says in her video “A Sunny Day in Seattle.”
Another woman, Mariam Sabir, recalls the shock of arriving at medical school and realizing FGM was seldom discussed.
For a man named Hatim Amiji, a school fellowship in Uganda led him to ask his sister if she had undergone FGM, and to his horror, she had.
“We definitely recognize that men are important allies in our work to end this form of gender-based violence,” Taher said.
Most of the contributors had never opened up about how FGM had impacted their lives.
Voices to End FGM/C was launched by Sahiyo “to build a cadre of voices speaking out and sharing experiences so that we can normalize talking about something that for a very long time was considered taboo,” the organization said in a press release.
The project came out of Sahiyo’s first FGM storytelling program, Sahiyo Stories, that launched with a residential workshop in Berkeley, California in 2018. That program then grew into a workshop in the US, and a worldwide webinar the following year.
Read More: FGM in the US: The Hidden Crime Next Door
Participants in the storytelling programs received training on how to create videos with StoryCenter. The organization helped them write scripts, curate personal photos, edit footage, and work with illustrators and visual artists to animate their stories.
“We can only create change if we are brave enough to speak about it and ask for it,” Taher said.
You can watch the full ‘Voices to End FGM/C’ series here.