As the year comes to an end, we look back to count and celebrate the successes won and challenges overcome. At the end of 2017, the AHA Foundation is looking back even further. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we recall stories of people who reached out for help, and how we helped them thanks to partners and donors who committed their support and time along the way.
Whether you are an AHA Foundation donor, volunteer, campus program fellow, or a girl who has had the courage to ask for support when facing a forced marriage or female genital mutilation, you are a part of an inspiring community of determined, brave individuals. Your involvement with AHA Foundation’s work has been forever intertwined and its impact amplified with work of thousands of others as we have marched together in the past 10 years on a mission to end dangerous cultural practices.
What better way to understand how your involvement with AHA Foundation makes a difference in changing the lives of others, than to read the messages from other community members? After you read the messages below, we hope you will take a few minutes to send us a message to firstname.lastname@example.org about your connection with AHA Foundation’s life-saving work over the past 10 years.
* Messages from girls who reached out for help against abuse and oppression:
“Hello! I just wanted to thank you for all your help. Everything has gotten a lot better since the last time I contacted you and you have been a big part of that! I appreciate the help I have received and I am truly grateful that people like you exist and are willing to help a complete stranger. Maybe one day I can do something like this too!”
“Thank you for responding. Is it strange that this made me tear up? It is nice to know that at least one person knows what I’m going through right now.”
“I do genuinely appreciate the cause of the AHA Foundation, and to support women’s freedoms and to fight against oppression is something I am making trying to make a point of whenever I can, simply because that’s right. Thank you so much for everything, and please do let me know how I can contribute!”
“I feel so lucky with the way things are turning out. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement – it goes a long way, I think sometimes that’s all that is needed for us to do our best!”
“Thank you so much for the reply. I cannot contain my emotions after receiving such kindness and support. I’m overwhelmed by your support and care.”
*Girls’ names are not shared to protect their identity.
Messages from AHA Foundation partners and professionals fighting female genital mutilation and forced marriage:
“The prevalence of honor violence and honor killings in the U.S. will only increase, unless we act now. We have a duty to protect these young women and to be a voice for them. Most importantly, it is the right thing to do.”
– Detective Chris Boughey, Violent Crimes Unit, Peoria PD
“The influence of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her foundation is well known, especially with regard to forced marriages, female genital mutilation and honor killings.
As a legislator working in a small rural state, the AHA Foundation has been a wonderful resource to me.
We must send a strong message to protect little girls from child abuse and to outlaw cultural practices that violate women’s rights.
While my bill failed, another proposal to criminalize female genital mutilation is in the works. I look forward to working with the AHA Foundation as this new effort gets underway. The model legislation and words of encouragement were especially helpful.
As Ms. Hirsi Ali states in her book, Infidel, ”…some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”
I am thankful for the work the AHA Foundation is doing to help break the silence.”
– Heather Sirocki, State Legislator in Maine’s House of Representatives
“Amanda at the AHA Foundation was a tremendous partner in our bipartisan legislative effort in Michigan to address female genital mutilation. We worked hand in hand with her to develop our multi-bill package and refine the bills to be as effective as possible. Also, she gave expert testimony via videochat for our committee hearing about female genital mutilation.”
– Stephanie Chang, State Legislator in Michigan’s House of Representatives
“When I heard Ayaan Hirsi Ali talking to Tucker Carlson on Fox News about the case in Michigan, I was so horrified that I immediately reviewed our existing state laws to determine whether this could happen in Texas.
While we had laws against the practice of FGM, we did not have anything in law to punish those who help facilitate the FGM practice by transporting girls to undergo this gruesome act. I introduced legislation. Every woman in the Texas Senate signed on as a joint author, and we overwhelmingly approved a new law making it a felony to transport girls for FGM procedures.
I am so grateful for Ms. Hirsi Ali for courageously speaking out about this important issue. There is no place in our society for this barbaric practice.”
– Senator Jane Nelson, Texas
“With girls at risk in Massachusetts, we felt it was key to have state legislation as one of the many tools needed to fight female genital mutilation. The AHA Foundation has been a significant resource and guide in helping us navigate the process.”
– Beth Watters, Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association
“The AHA Foundation was one of the first organizations to support the efforts in Massachusetts to put in place legislation to ban FGM in our state. They have constantly stood by efforts to pass this legislation and they are a go-to organization for questions dealing with FGM.”
– Deborah Benson
Messages from AHA Foundation supporters:
“…Potential victims need to be reassured that approaching authorities won’t immediately backfire on them, and they need appropriate services to continue supporting them after they have reached out for help. While there are not many resources for help that I am aware of, thankfully more exist today than when my sister and I left our family. Just the mere fact that I could refer women and girls facing similar situations to organizations such as the AHA Foundation…represents huge progress.”
“I support AHA Foundation because as a gay man who grew up in a conservative Catholic environment, I understand the power of religion to cause real harm to its followers. You, at the foundation, are doing much needed work to protect those young victims of religious dogma who can’t protect themselves. The physical and psychological violence that religion can do to its own members as well as to others can be devastating and I would like to live in a world where that isn’t tolerated in any form. I would like to live in a world where human rights are protected over religious beliefs and the AHA Foundation really works towards that goal.”
“I understand the importance of addressing honor violence in the U.S. Not to do so undermines our democracy.”
“When I read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Infidel, it was a clear message to me that at last someone from the inside who had lived this life and experienced this treatment first-hand was willing to step up and speak about what was going on. Her story was stunning. This is when I first became involved with the AHA Foundation. I choose to support this organization as opposed to others working on the same issues because I choose to support Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I have so much admiration for her fortitude, intelligence, and commitment to helping others.”
“I don’t see how anyone who believes in the rule of law and the rights of women could do anything other than support efforts to end female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and honor killings – practices that have no place in the 21st century.”
– Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google
“Thank you for doing this. The U.S. is long overdue to address and prevent honor based violence and forced marriage. I was born and raised in the U.S. but was faced with these very real threats when I left my family nearly 20 years ago. Can’t even begin to underscore what it would have meant to have resources available at that time.”
“Violence and control of women has been a problem for centuries, we should all stand against it. When another human is deprived of rights, it is a threat to the rights of all of us.”