Today is a day very close to my heart: the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I survived this horrendous practice myself. That is one of the main reasons why I was driven to found AHA Foundation 15 years ago. I was horrified that FGM occurred even here in the U.S. and vowed to do all I could to eradicate it.
I am very proud of what AHA Foundation has accomplished in the fight against FGM in the last 15 years. We have become a recognized national leader in the fight. But 10 states plus Washington, D.C. still haven’t outlawed FGM. Over 500,000 girls are estimated to have survived or to be at risk of FGM in the U.S. This is unacceptable. There is still so much to do.
And that is why I am proud to announce AHA Foundation’s latest initiative to help survivors and those at risk of FGM. With the valued help of the law firms White & Case LLP and Reed Smith LLP, we have created legal guides for survivors and those at risk of FGM—the first of their kind in the U.S. These are designed, in the words of our Executive Director George Zarubin, to “help those who have had FGM inflicted upon them to navigate the legal thicket in their respective states so that they can receive justice for what was done to them.” You can read George’s full introduction to the guides here.
Also this month, we interviewed Adijatu Kamara, a lawyer at Reed Smith who worked on several of the guides. The fight to end FGM is personal for her—she has relatives in Sierra Leone still at risk of it. I applaud her bravery and willingness to do what is right. Indeed, without the help of all the many lawyers and experts at White & Case and Reed Smith, we couldn’t have broken this new ground. Read our interview with Adi here.
I hope that the legal guides and AHA Foundation’s other work will give heart to those, like me, who survived FGM. For me, every day is a day of zero tolerance for FGM. I hope that AHA Foundation has, over the past 15 years, helped bring forward the day when this is also true for everyone, everywhere. But the future is never certain. All I know is that AHA Foundation will keep fighting. I am so thankful that you stand with us as we strive to protect the rights of women and girls.
With warmest wishes,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Founder