Jaha Dukureh has an incredible story. She is a wife, mother, and a leader in the global fight to end female genital mutilation (FGM). Now her story is at the center of a new film, Jaha’s Journey, which documents her return to The Gambia and her fight to end FGM in her home country.
FGM affects 130 million women worldwide – 6,000 a day – and is prevalent in 28 African countries alone. Jaha was subjected to FGM, a painful, traumatic, and sometimes deadly ritual that involves the partial or total removal of female genitalia.
At 15 years old, she was taken to New York to marry a man in his forties who she had never met. She escaped that marriage with the help of local human rights organizations and moved to Atlanta. She remarried and now has three children, including one daughter.
Jaha knew that she would never subject her own daughter to FGM. She also knew that she couldn’t stand by and let other girls be subjected to FGM, something that numerous women across the U.S. have experienced despite legislation passed in January 2013 aimed to curb the practice.
She started a petition on Change.org asking President Obama to address the FGM problem by commissioning a report on the prevalence of the practice in the U.S. And after more than 220,000 people signed her petition, the administration announced that it would start a study.
See Jaha at the U.N. talk about how starting a petition changed her life:
Directed and produced by award-winning documentary maker Patrick Farrelly, Jaha’s Journey starts after her victory in the U.S. It follows her through The Gambia as she launches a campaign and grassroots organization to end FGM, an effort that has already led to serious consideration of an FGM ban.
The documentary has been supported by The Guardian, an ardent advocate of the anti-FGM movement, and the Human Dignity Foundation. Now Jaha and Farrelly want you to get involved. They’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds that will allow for more filming and editing of the film, and for commissioning a composer to score the documentary, among other things.
Once it is complete, Farrelly plans to premiere the film at international festivals. The Guardian Global Media Campaign will lead an international media outreach program so that Jaha’s Journey is broadcast in all 29 countries where FGM is practiced. And Jaha plans to tour the documentary around the countryside in The Gambia and show it to people using a mobile screen.
“Jaha’s story and her journey contains within it the narrative of countless girls whose stories we’ll never hear, their lives lived in the shadows, their dreams unfulfilled,” wrote Farrelly on the film’s IndieGogo campaign. “The ambition of this film is to draw attention to their existence or, better still, that they themselves will see the film and draw hope from it, if not for themselves then at least for their daughters.”
Help end FGM now! Support Jaha’s Journey on Indiegogo.
Here are some other petitions that might interest you: