Cambridge woman honored for her work against the practice of female genital cutting – Wicked Local

Cambridge woman honored for her work against the practice of female genital cutting

Even while growing up, Mariya Taher was aware of female genital cutting, or FGC, though it was and remains a topic shrouded in silence.

“I wanted to know more of what it was,“ said Taher, who lives in Cambridge. “I wanted to know why this wasn’t more widely known. In graduate school, I did my thesis on the topic. That led me from one thing to another, and I started to hear more stories from survivors of FGC. I realized how huge it was and how in many communities it was completely normalized.”

In 2015, Taher and four other women who had been speaking against the practice started Sahiyo U.S., a nonprofit whose goal is to bring an end to FGC  recognized as a human rights violation by the World Health Organization  through education and awareness.

Mariya Taher was involved with a Petition Delivery event in 2019. The petition called for Mass. Legislators to sign into law a bill to … Show more

Earlier this year, Taher was notified that she was one of 10 nonprofit leaders named a 2023 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth honoree.

“It feels pretty amazing to be acknowledged in this way,” she said. “To be recognized for all those years of work, and to be recognized along with these nine amazing women is a little surreal.”

Honorees each receive $25,000 to support their charitable cause, as well as mentorship from the L’Oréal Paris network and a national platform to tell their stories.

“I believe this can really help make a difference,” Taher said of the recognition she received.

Female genital cutting is ‘sense of control over women’s bodies’

Female genital cutting, also known as female genital mutilation or female circumcision, includes the total or partial removal of female genitalia for non-medical reasons, Taher said.

“There are a variety of reasons for why it is done including religious, social, preservation of virginity and cleanliness and hygiene, which is false,” she said. “It really is a sense of control over women’s bodies.

While most people associate the practice with Africa, it occurs throughout the world, including within certain communities in the United States.

“In the U.S. there was a case in 2018 that showed it was happening in South Asian communities, and also in some fundamentalist Christian communities,” Taher said. “The official data we have from the U.N. is that this affects 200 million women and girls worldwide, but we believe it is more.”

Continue reading now.