Written by: Jaha Dukureh
My name is Jaha Dukureh.
I am 24 years old.
I am a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM).
I now live in Atlanta, Georgia, but when I was a baby in Gambia, my parents asked a family friend to perform the ritual on me. That day, I was robbed of a part of my femininity. Since I have started speaking out against FGM, I have met many other girls who have been cut. Not all their stories are like mine.
Many of these girls are American.
They are girls who were born and live in the United States where nearly 200,000 girls are at risk of FGM. Yes, it is illegal, which is why many girls are subject to what is called vacation cutting. They are sent back to their parents’ home countries, where relatives arrange the ritual. Many of these girls are unaware of what is about to happen to them.
They are scarred and traumatised – physically and emotionally.
Girls are told the cutting ritual is a transition into womanhood. However, for the rest of their lives, they will struggle with pain and complications during their periods, sexual intercourse and childbirth. No girl should be subject to this pain.
When I first spoke out publicly against FGM, my family and friends were shocked and ashamed. They pressured me to stop. I almost gave into them. I was only one person – what could I accomplish? I knew that no girl should be forced to cut her body. Although every day it happens to 6,000 girls.
I had to speak out.
I started a petition calling for an end to FGM in the United States. I have found inspiration in other brave women who have spoken out against this abuse and are taking action to create change. These brave women motivated me to join a rising campaign called Honor Diaries - a film and a movement whose aim is to stop the violence that women experience in the name of honor and tradition.
The courageous women in this film speak on behalf of their own issues and the struggles of so many women and girls. Through their support, I realize I cannot give up this fight.
We live in a free country. Why should these girls have less freedom than we do?
Why don’t more of us stand up and say something? The girls who undergo vacation cutting are not far away. They live in your neighborhood. These girls are your friends, classmates and colleagues.
We cannot remain silent while they suffer. Please watch Honor Diaries – the stories you will hear are sad and horrific. The women are hopeful and courageous. They will inspire you to get involved. Together we can make the world a better place for their daughters, my daughters and for your own.
Sign my petition here: End FGM Now
Cover Photo Credit: Heal the Cuts