My name is Naima and for the past 2 decades, I have advocated for an end to traditional harmful practices such as FGM/C.
Over 200 million women globally are living with FGM/C, and I am one of the 500,000 here in the United States. I believe that drastically reducing this number is possible and hinges upon access to resources and information for girls and women who have survived FGM/C and those who are at risk of undergoing this harmful practice.
My own experience called me to the path of working with and for my communities to help us strive together for a more caring, inclusive, just, and joyful world. In 2009, I started a women’s circle in Atlanta, GA to provide a space for other women who were survivors or who had loved ones who were. The circle became a place where women came together, participated in workshops and shared their stories in a safe and supportive environment.
For most of my adult life, I have wished there was a culturally appropriate space that encouraged self-care, physical, mental and emotional wellness for women like me. It is because of that need and desire that I created Diid Nagaa Retreat Project with Threads Weaving Dream, a space that aims to restore and nurture the well-being of women and girls. This retreat creates a sacred space that allows us to hear and see ourselves in nature. It is also a space to unwind and disconnect from daily stresses while learning and understanding the historical, physical and psychological effects of the traumas we’ve experienced as women and as a community. We hold space for women from all walks of life to learn and explore. Everyone has the ability to create positive change in the world around them. This is a space to try something new and connect with others. It is within these surroundings and elements that one can begin the healing process.
In 2020 we are hoping to host storytelling workshops in Asheville, NC and bring together survivors from India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the United States to learn how to tell their stories. When we can tell our stories affectively we start conversations that will break the silence on FGM/C in our communities. We’re bringing survivors together to share their stories because we believe stories constitute the most powerful solution in our possesion.
We are partnership with Story Center to provide a safe place for survivors to come together to reflect, share, listen and support each other so they can heal, reclaim the pieces of themselves that FGM/C took, and unite their voices against FGM/C. In this way, we are all contributing to ending this harmful practice.
I believe powerful narratives and compelling storytelling can change cultural norms and create a space for new stories, ideas, and norms to flourish. When it comes to changing deeply held beliefs and traditions, stories are foundational. Humans have always used stories to make sense of our chaotic world. Stories, continuously told, define our identity. Unfortunately, some of our stories are "problem saturated" and with repeated reinforcement, they can become our "identity stories." When we are stuck in emotional pain, we can forget that we are creative beings with many different stories to tell. Hidden beneath our "survival stories" are skills, resources, positive values, dreams, and desires.
Stories can help develop compassion for oneself, making storytelling a powerful tool to generate social change.
Stories are a direct route to our emotions and are therefore important toward our decision-making as large-scale social norms change.
Stories create meaning out of the patterns, cohering communities, and engendering empathy across differences, thus enabling the healing process to begin.
The Story Center ’s platform will enable survivors of FGM/C to share their stories and engage with the broader community to protect the generations of girls to come from these harmful practices.
We are calling on our family, friends, and community to help us shine a light on our stories of survival and strength. Many of the women attending this retreat have always been afraid to speak up from fear of being rejected and sanctioned by their communities, putting the safety of people close to them at risk.
We are raising money for our upcoming retreat for activists who are on the front lines of this life-changing task, directly working with girls and women whose lives are affected by FGM/C. There are increasing numbers of girls and women working to support change in their families and communities but they lack access to support.
This funds will cover the overhead costs of the retreat which include lodging for 5 nights, 3 meals for 5 days, transportation while in Asheville, psychological support services, photography, wellness activities instructors and support staff.
Help us make sure that the voices of these women make a difference and generate change.
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Thank you in advance for reading, sharing, and donating!
Gratitude and love,