Tuesday, 21 June 2016


Here is the LETTER TO THE MEDIA published on STOPFGMIRAN by activist Rayehe

So far we have some translations of the letter.
HERE you can find it in:

Please share with the media of your country. If you have a blog please share it on your platform. If you have any journalist or blogger friend, please share and ask for visibility.
We are still looking for FRENCH, SOMALI, SWEDISH, GUJARATI, DUTCH if  some activists are willing to help us please get in touch with me.

Thursday, 9 June 2016


Four years ago, when I was preparing an educational tool to train multicultural mediators on FGM, I have shared it with a friend who is a professional photographer and  filmaker and suggested to make a doc showing how FGM is done, in some villages back in Kenya. I thought what a bleak prospect.
It's recent the  NEWS that Sky filmed a Somali girl undergoing the cut and intended to broadcast the video. So sad. 
I use my art to make impact in people's life trying to show the "other side of the moon", if you allow me the poetic licence. I use words to tell stories and I know how provocative words are, how can they dismantle one idea and put the seed for a new one. On the other side I also know how can they build distance, discrimination, alienation, obstacles. I know how words touch one's emotional intimate cords so why the heck should I use an image of a child who is cut to let other people feel what she is feeling? Why should I use poverty porn to touch the soul and mind of people to let them empathyze with that little girl?

Sometimes I'm asked to provide pictures to pair my articles on the media and some medias ask something "powerful", this is how they call it. Powerful to them means a razor, a blade, blood, a black and muslim girl. This is something I always have to make clear with my editors. To address FGM we need inclusive content.

This is also the reason why I believe that media (and also organizations) should read carefully the LETTER a group of activists and I signed to ask to address FGM differently... I don't believe a campaign that titles "FGM IS A MURDER ATTEMPT" nor "FGM IS BARBARIC" can help to raise more awarenss and indicate a path to eradicate it.  How would a mother feel being pointed as a murderer while she loves her daughter and just does what she believes is right and unchangable within her community? How would a girl feel to acknowledge that her mother is a possible murderer while she sees the love she has for her? 
We have difficulties to believe in that, but really most mothers who allow FGM on their daughters believe is the right thing to do, they have grown up with that and to make them to think differently without compromising the bond to the good parts of  their culture, it requires the right approach, the right language. They need to understand why they are abusing their children, why the practice they believe right, is on the contrary, humiliating and disabling. Effective changes are meant to be successuful out of dialogue and confrontation, answering questions, clearing doubts, calling people to take action against their wrong beliefs, understanding why they are wrong and who made those beliefs up back in time. Breaking taboos is not something you can do in one day nor in a forceful way. Cultures are made by people not the other way around and to change what is rooted from ancestral times, they need time to acquire, internalize, accept and decide... making decision wise and permanent for the good.

Language is powerful, either in bad and good way,  we have to use it right. We need to ask ourselves what do we aim to? What are our expectations when we write about a little girl who has been cut because her community believes its her culture.  Some may think that strong judgemental words can help to change what is there since centuries, but in reality is only helps newspapers to sell more. 
That's reality. I was even told by a publisher that to make sure that such a delicate issue finds a space in first page, it should be turned in a case no matter what. I have to admit that is true. I started working as a journalist back in the early 90s and I always tried to remain truthfull to myself and to my principles and when this was not guaranteed I stepped out of the system paying the cost of starving but satisfied with myself. 
FGM and GBV shouldn't be written about to sell magazines or make audience, they should come to our attention with the idea that it's possible for us to relate to those situations as human beings trying to be critical and pro active in thinking how we can contribute in changing the society we live. 
I know by saying this I risk to be judged that I'm not for the radical change, that I'm moderate and I support cultural relativism (who knows my activism and my artistic work knows that I'm not for cultural relativism when it's about human rights) but I know changes comes more successfully through engagement and dialogue, confrontation and debate.

I know that journalism has a different function than the art of fiction and poetry, but even though journalism has to remain attached to reality exposing events it should always offer a space for people to debate and discuss issues in a critical way. When it comes to human rights' issues, like FGM, it should re think its priorities and make sure that that little girl and her mother and her her father and their community might have a voice. And also to render them visible and represented within a larger context. If we create space for narratives out of news we can possibly engage people more effective. Stories connect people and break boundaries.


Grazie ad Alessandra Montesanto, direttrice di PERIDIRITTIUMANI per aver pubblicato questa LETTERA che io e un gruppo di attivisti impegnati sul fronte delle MGF (Mutilazioni Genitali Femminili) stiamo facendo circolare per i media nel mondo. Abbiamo bisogno di una informazione diversa sull'argomento. Qui la versione in INGLESE

Thank you Alessandra Montesanto, director of PERIDIRITTIUMANI, an indipendent online magazine that talks about human rights, who published the LETTER to the media previousely published in english on this site and in many groups on social networks. 
Here's the ITALIAN version.

Monday, 6 June 2016

ENDING FGM- Letter to the Media

Together with a number of activists around the world we are trying to ask international medias to change their approach and address Female Genital Mutilation (FGM/C) in a more inclusive way, helping also the work of thousands of activists worldwide to build a more extented public dialogue. 

To the Media

We are a group of activists working to raise awareness on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)[1].  According to the last UNICEF report 200 million women suffer FGM and it is estimated that 86 million girls are at risk in the next generation.
We want to invite international and local media to join our cause helping us to raise a public dialogue on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C).

For long time international and local media haven’t given sufficient space to FGM/C and GBV (Gender Based Violence), limiting their narratives just when bad news happen. We need media to adopt an inclusive non-judgmental approach to the subject in order to make easy for people to relate and break the taboo of FGM/C. Every article that comes in the papers helps save many girls as parents (particularly fathers) realize how needless and cruel this custom is. We cannot end FGM/C without the help of media. 

We are planning a multi-pronged approach to end this misogynistic custom
We want to engage youth by having essay, poster and short film contests. 
We want to educate parents and inform communities
We want to involve professionals (educators, doctors, journalists, artists)
We want to target religious heads, asking them to convince people that FGM/C doesn't have religious sanctions.
We want to petition governments to ban FGM/C in their countries.
But we want to begin with specific informative articles on this subject in all media.

With the help of media, activists have made a huge difference in India where Dawoodi Bohras practices type 1 FGM. The Bohra diaspora (including the clergy) across the continents have pledged to save their little girls. 

We all know that FGM is a taboo outside and within FGM practicing communities, people who support FGM wrongly believe that is their culture, that is their religion which demands it, that is the right way for a girl to become a marriageable woman, that it is the necessary step for women to have a social status within their community. Some families think it is an initiation ceremony all girls must go through, some do it because they think it is a shame not to do so, and many parents do this to make sure the girl stays a virgin before marriage and faithful to her husband after.

According to all the existing international and some national legislations, FGM/C is considered Child Abuse for many reasons: it is done without the consent of the  girl, it has no benefit, it deprives the woman of  her integrity condemning her to a life of physical and psychological pain and sometimes even to death.
Many countries have a law which bans FGM/C though we believe the law itself is not sufficient to eradicate FGM from communities. We believe that  FGM/C  is  a product of culture, and we need a cultural change that each and every community has to embrace in its own way.
Cultures change, they have always changed in the short and long time. People make culture not the other way around.  Cruel, archaic practices have been uprooted from many cultures. This has taken inside and outside forces, laws, but most importantly EDUCATION.  Media in this specific circumstance could have an important role in sharing positive stories and initiatives as well and not just those promoted by NGOS or International Agencies, we need people from the ground to have their voices heard.
Local and International Media should take in account the issue of representation, every person in  society (in their own country and in the diaspora) must have the opportunity to have reflected his/her own story and life to identify with. We should be able to read stories that reflect our experience as well as open up new ones. Societies are circle-rounded entities where people move constantly and build new interactions, the face of our societies is multilayered and heterogeneous, no one should be misrepresented or exonerated to be represented. Multiplicity should be the lens through which we can imagine our reality.

We request Media to give voice to the voiceless and share stories of who is directly or indirectly involved with the FGM/C experience, so not only women but men too. By opening a public dialogue about it, will contribute in raising awareness among people. We also believe that through the Media it is possible to address world’s leaders to take a stand and make resolutions to ban FGM/C and engage in empowering and educating generations to say no to this form of abuse.  


Tasleem – India (Activist)
Tesfaye Melaku – Ethiopia (activist)
Valentina Mmaka – Kenya/South Africa (Artist- activist)
John Wafula – Kenya  (activist)
Mamboleo – Kenya (artist-activist)
Diana Kendi – Kenya (media)
Jane Gatwiri – Kenya (media)
Christina Keller Hufnagel – Germany (activist)
Kameel Ahmady – Iran (activist researcher)
Francis Baraka – Kenya (artists-activist)
Rena Herdiyani – Indonesia (activist)gua – Kenya (activist)
Mariya Taher/USA (researcher – activist)
Nwachukwu Kelechukwu – Nigeria (activist)
Tony Mwebia – Kenya  (activist)
Priya Goswami - India (filmaker)
Rayehe Mozafarian – Iran (activist)
Sayydah Garrett - USA (activist)
Asenath Mwithigah - Kenya (activist)
ZamZam Billow - Kenya/Somalia (activist)
Eva Komba - Kenya (activist)
Samuel Siriria Leadismo - Kenya (activist)
Navroz Havewala - India (supporter)

Activist, Artists and Organizations who would like to subscribe this letter can send a reply to this post and we'll add their names. If you need a translation in one of the following languages to send to the media of your country please e mail me. If you'd like to translate the same letter to send to the media of your country please get in touch with us to join the movement.

We have the following translations of the letter: Ahmaric, Kiswahili, Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, Bahasa, Gujarati, Spanish, Italian, German, Hindi
Any media representative (journalist, blogger, reporter, tv anchor, radio speaker) can get in touch with us.

NOTE- Thank you to Rena Herdiyani, Mamboleo, Christina Keller Hufnagel, Tesfaye Melaku, Tasleem, for some of the above translations.