Ayaan Hirsi Ali: What I’m Thankful For This Year

This Thanksgiving I am grateful for the things that we take for granted as women and men living in democratic countries such as the US.

Violence against women and girls is universal. Worldwide, the number of women who suffer from some form of physical or emotional abuse, sexual assault or rape, kidnapping, female genital mutilation or forced marriage is staggering. In many places it is justified by religion, culture, or tradition, leaving women and girls with nowhere to turn.

In the US, we have laws that protect us, lawyers that defend us, press that condemn our abusers. We have civil action groups that protect our reproductive rights, we have medical professionals who treat us. We have a community that supports our rights as human beings.

Now imagine you live in a place where a whole society has declared war on you because you are a woman:

  • Fathers sell their daughters to the highest bidder.
  • Girls are denied an education. The brave ones like Malala who stand up for their rights are shot.
  • You receive a divorce but leave with no assets.
  • You are subjected to female genital mutilation.
  • As a woman or girl you face hostility in the press, the court system, schools, the marketplace, even home, and for no other reason than you were born female.

Women in the US and in the West have come a long way. But even here, many of the same injustices are happening despite progress and laws. These injustices are well hidden, wrapped in secrecy, often condoned by whole families:

  • Underage girls are forced into marriages to much older men, often strangers.
  • Women and girls are held back from school and work, unable to leave their homes to pursue their dreams.
  • Little girls are sent to their family’s country of origin to have their genitals cut away.

I am grateful that I have been able to give back to women and girls by founding the AHA Foundation. Thanks to your support we protect girls at risk by changing laws, training professionals in how to respond to pleas for help in ways that will save the victim from further harm, and by breaking the inexcusable silence about these cruelties.

Please help me put a stop to these dangerous practices in the US so that other women and girls can have the opportunities I have had. Thanks to my generous friend, Eric Schmidt, your gift will have twice the impact.