Thirty organizations from around the world recently joined Sahiyo to petition the United Nations to invest in the research and support to bring an end to the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) by the year 2030. Last year the United Nations set the deadline to end the practice of FGM/C in the world by 2030 or in a generation.
The organization, Sahiyo began more than two years ago as a conversation between five women who felt strongly about the ritual of female genital mutilation/cutting, commonly referred to as “khatna” in the Bohra community in India. The five women in their group includes a social worker, a researcher, two filmmakers and a journalist, and all of them had already been speaking out, in their own ways, against the practice of “khatna”. Sahiyo is the Bohra Gujarati word for ‘saheliyo’, which means friends. As their collaboration grew, they realized the need for an organized, informed forum within their community that could help drive a movement to bring an end to “khatna”. Thus the organization, Sahiyo was established. The mission of Sahiyo is to empower Dawoodi Bohra and other Asian communities to end female genital mutilation/cutting and create positive social change through dialogue, education and collaboration based on community involvement.
Sahiyo is obviously keeping in step with their mission by educating and collaborating with other like-minded organizations as they initiated this petition and rallied thirty other organizations. The following is the press release issued last week:
According to the United Nations, at least 200 million women in 30 countries have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). However, these statistics are largely restricted to sub-Saharan Africa and ignore the global scope of the issue.
In 2016, a UNICEF report finally included Indonesia as a country where FGM/C is practiced. But FGM/C has also been reported in India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Maldives, Brunei, Russia (Dagestan) and Bangladesh. These Asian countries fall outside the scope of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme to Accelerate the Abandonment of FGM/C. As a result, FGM/C survivors from this region are overlooked when it comes to resources, data collection efforts, advocacy and support.
This gap must be addressed in order to reach the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal of ending FGM/C by 2030. To this end, Sahiyo and a coalition of 30 other civil society organizations from across the world are now petitioning the U.N. to examine the impact of FGM/C in Asia more thoroughly.
This Change.org petition calls upon the global community, particularly the United Nations, international foundations and donor countries/agencies, to put forth more funding, support and resources towards research, data collection, advocacy and survivor-centered support facilities in the above-mentioned Asian countries.
For Sahiyo and other advocacy workers in South Asia, these interventions have never been more crucial. In the past one year, despite the near-absence of resources and some backlash from within our own communities, our advocacy efforts have finally started to bear fruit. We have broken the culture of silence and stigma around FGM/C and drawn considerable media attention to the practice. In 2015, Sahiyo pursued a small scale study to understand the extent of FGC in the international Dawoodi Bohra community, and found that 80% of the women had been cut. More interestingly, we also found that 81% of the survey respondents did not want FGC to continue in the community.
In most other Asian countries where FGM/C has been reported, the silence around the practice is yet to be broken, and even preliminary research studies on FGC prevalence are yet to be pursued. By directing more investment and support towards FGM/C in Asia, the U.N. and other stakeholders can ensure that the millions of little girls are not left out of the global campaign to end this practice by 2030.
As we begin 2017, we believe it would be wonderful if the international community can take this up as a New Year’s resolution in our collective journey towards ending FGC.
The coalition of organizations that have co-signed the petition are: Sahiyo, Love Matters India, Orchid Project, Equality Now, Healthy Tomorrow, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Point of View, Akshara, RAHMA, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation, FORMA, Tahirih Justice Centre, Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), Chehak Trust (Sahyog), Krantikali, The Hands of Hope Foundation, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States, No FGM Australia, Pastoralist Child Foundation, Dahlia Project, The Council for Democracy and Tolerance, Saheli, Blue Veins, Beyond the Hijab, Men UNiTE (Men Against Violence and Abuse Alliance), Dawn Worldwide, Speak out on FGM, Hawa Trust, Keep the Drums Lose the Knife, Sambhaavnaa, Sanctuary for Families.
To sign and support this petition, please click the link and remember to share it with your friends and colleagues on social media. https://www.change.org/p/united-nations-end-female-genital-mutilation-cutting-by-2030-invest-in-research-and-support-in-asia.