Isla Whately is 17 and from Scotland- she's been an Advocate for Girlguiding for a year, which gave her the opportunity to be part of Youth For Change's side-event at last year's Girl Summit 2014! She caught up with Jaha Dukureh, a pioneering anti-FGM activist, to hear her story.
On Thursday 10th July, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jaha Dukureh, a young woman passionate about ending FGM (female genital mutilation) in the USA and founder of Safe Hands for Girls. Originally from the Gambia in West Africa, she underwent this procedure as an infant but only found out when she travelled to the States aged 15 for an arranged marriage. Since then, she has been campaigning to end the procedure worldwide and has recently set up a change.org petition to spread the word about her cause.
I asked Jaha what motivated her originally to speak out about FGM and the response she got from her community.
“For me, the thing that motivated me was seeing how many girls were going through FGM every single year and that no-one was doing anything about it,” she says.
The response she got originally wasn't positive though. “When I first started talking about FGM, the reaction wasn't good because everyone assumed that I was just trying to lock people up and I was exposing a culture, a tradition, a religion. So the reaction wasn't good for me at first.” I asked her if the reaction has changed since then. “It's changing. It hasn't changed completely, but it's changing bit by bit.”
Here at Youth For Change we are passionate about getting young people involved in the discussion to end FGM. I asked Jaha why she thought this was important.
“We're the future, we're gonna be the future parents and, well, we can't change what has happened to us but we can definitely change what happens to our daughters. That's why each and every one of us needs to be involved,” she says.
There are still lots to be done to end FGM – we are only at the beginning of the journey towards a world free of the practice. I asked Jaha what in particular she thinks needs to be done to achieve this.
“I think there needs to be more political will from governments all over the world. There needs to be open discussions and I think every country should make it a duty and ban FGM and do more when it comes to FGM,” she says, “ and there needs to be more awareness, there needs to be more education, there needs to be more summits like the one you guys are about to have in the UK.”
I totally agree with the inspiring words Jaha has spoken. We all need to play a part in the battle to end FGM, and the youth voice is incredibly important. If we speak out, young people can be the change.