Recently, AHA Foundation founder, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, sat down for a discussion with former CNN Chief White House Correspondent, Jessica Yellin, in Los Angeles, California, as part of an InHer Circle interview. InHer Circle hosts conversations with women leaders, aiming to “tackle the many complex issues impacting women and girls around the world and to shine a light on the powerful women doing remarkable work in these arenas.” Previous InHer Circle speakers include philanthropist and designer Diane von Furstenburg, journalist Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Reflecting on her recent 47th birthday, Ayaan shared that she felt very lucky to be alive. With a low life expectancy for women in her birth country of Somalia, many girls never make it to the age of 47. Considering her own upbringing, and thinking of the many girls she knew who never made it to adulthood, she said, “When you undergo [female genital mutilation (FGM)] and then are married off at 12 or 13, you can guess why they die.” In fact, according to UNICEF, one in 12 women in Somalia dies due to pregnancy-related causes.
“If you survive, you have an obligation to help those who were left behind. That’s where I am now.”
Ayaan continued, “As a woman, you have two choices. You learn to survive or you learn to play the part of a victim. If you survive, you have an obligation to help those who were left behind. That’s where I am now.”
In response to a question about how to stop FGM and honor violence, Ayaan said, “You have to have a conversation with communities about the economy of the situation,” explaining that a woman’s worth is more than her genitals and her virginity. If allowed an education, women and girls can become productive members of a society, contributing funds to the family without the need for a husband to do so.
“My mission is to make women aware of the power they have as mothers, as one half of humanity. If we garnered that and empowered one another, if we made the planet a better place for women and girls, we would make it better for humanity. That is my mission.”
When asked by Yellin about her mission and that of the AHA Foundation, Ayaan said, “My mission is to make women aware of the power they have as mothers, as one half of humanity. If we garnered that and empowered one another, if we made the planet a better place for women and girls, we would make it better for humanity. That is my mission.”
Every day at the AHA Foundation, we work to help further Ayaan’s vision of a world in which oppressed girls and women are empowered to escape violence and abuse, and live a life of their own choice. It’s our partnership with you, our supporters, that allows for us to take this vision and make it a reality. Together, we are already making this a better, safer planet for women and girls.