Realizing a dream to protect and empower women and girls

Dear Oyia,

Ten years ago, I took the first step toward realizing my dream to protect and empower women and girls suffering from the dangerous traditional practices I survived.

Opening the doors of the AHA Foundation was that first step and it would not have happened without supporters like you!

Throughout my life, I witnessed pain, abuse and death that was born out of extremist ideological views. In cultures shaped by these views, women are considered second-class citizens. Oppression and abuse are the norm.

When I moved to the US in 2006, I was horrified to learn about women and girls suffering in America from those very same harmful traditional practices I survived. Wherever I looked, I saw honor violence and extremist ideological views infiltrating Western societies. It is no wonder then that dangerous practices such as female genital mutilation, child and forced marriage, and honor violence destroy – and sometimes even take – the lives of girls and women in every corner of the world even today, in the 21st century. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the West still think that such practices only happen in far-away countries. But the truth is it happens here.

Looking back over the past 10 years, I am extremely proud that we have helped write and pass legislation against FGM in four states, and won a huge victory when the law was passed which makes it illegal to take a girl overseas to be cut. We have trained more than 2,500 police officers and other frontline professionals how to save the lives of women and girls who come to them in fear facing honor violence, and we launched the first honor violence crisis text line in the US so that girls at risk have a safe way to reach out for help. These are the big wins that make it into our annual reports, but for us, the most memorable and moving victories have been the individual lives that have been saved because we answered their call for help.

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