March Newsletter: Egyptian photographer talks about her award-winning photo essay on FGM; CTF fellow describes his fight for freedom of speech at UConn

Discussing female genital mutilation (FGM) can be uncomfortable for many people, and seeing visuals that depict the practice can be even more discomforting. But, both are necessary if we want more people to realize that gender-based violence is happening behind closed doors.
That’s why I was so encouraged to see the work of Somaya Abdelrahman, a photographer from Egypt, come to light. In her collection of photos, Somaya, an FGM survivor herself, humanizes FGM, without graphically depicting it, to help make it feel less detached from real lived experiences. Her work was recognized by The Washington Post and was awarded the Emerging Photographers Fellowship Award from Too Young to Wed alongside Canon USA. In our blog, Somaya shares why she decided to use photography to capture the everyday reality of FGM.
Meanwhile, freedom of speech continues to be a source of heated debate on many college campuses in North America. This month, we talked to Isadore Johnson, our CTF campus program fellow from the University of Connecticut, who started a petition asking his school to adopt the Chicago Statement, a free speech policy written specifically for universities. Despite some support, his advocacy has also been met with backlash and hateful messages from his peers. You can read our interview with him here.
The bravery of these two individuals cannot be understated. While Somaya was forced to flee her country for safety, Isadore faces persistent condemnation on his campus. Through our work, we will continue to support and uplift the efforts of individuals like Somaya and Isadore. I hope you will stand with us in the fight to ensure courageous voices like theirs are heard.
Thank you and take care,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Founder

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