Ending FGM in the United States

Posted on May 29, 2014, by Jaha Dukureh

Jaha Dukureh

I am often asked, “Out of all the survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM) in America, why did you start a campaign against the practice?”

Every day I live with the fact that something was taken away from me at a very young age. Not understanding what it would have meant or felt like if I had not gone through FGM is something that will forever haunt me.

Every day we hear about human rights issues -- issues that are affecting girls around the world. One issue that fails to get attention in the United States is female genital mutilation. Why? I don’t know. Each year, it is estimated that three million girls and women around the world are at risk of undergoing FGM. Yet we've failed to commission a report about this problem in a nation that is viewed as the leader in the free world for 17 years.

One of the greatest things about being American is the freedoms and liberties that this great country has to offer -- the freedom to be and do anything that you want. But every year, girls are forced to undergo female genital mutilation during their break from school. These girls are told they are being transformed into womanhood. The government has signed laws to make this practice illegal, but laws on paper without implementation mean nothing.

I started a campaign on Change.org asking the Obama administration as well as the Department of Health and Human services to commission a report about the number of girls that are impacted as well as the number of girls that are at risk. FGM does not only happen to girls in faraway places. It happens to girls right here In the United States. With everything that this great country has to offer, there is no reason why you should be born here and still be at risk of such a heinous practice. 

 

Jaha Dukureh with Rep. Joe Crowley and Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian in New York City May 12.

Most of the girls who have been through FGM in this country are your average American teenagers -- some you know, some you sat in the same classrooms with, some your colleagues and some your neighbors. As humans, put yourself in their shoes and imagine something so unfair, so inhumane happening to you, your daughter or your sister. 

It is the responsibility of all of us to protect our girls and this should be of utmost importance to our elected officials. Girls should not have to be objectified and FGM should not define how pure we are. 

Now that our petition has over 100,000 signatures, the next step is for our government to listen to all the people that took their time and signed our petition. Our demands are not much: what we asking for can be very simple and straight-forward. President Obama: you took an oath to protect the citizens of America no matter how underserved they are and it’s time to protect our girls. Each and every one of our voices matter and we will not give up until our elected officials answer to our call.

Jaha Dukureh moved to the United States from Gambia at age 15. She is now 24 years old and lives in Atlanta. Connect with her on Twitter (@JahaENDFGM).