Sakina, India

It began when one of my friends sent me an article written by Masooma Ranalvi. The memories of that fateful day that I had swept away under several layers came back with the minutest of details, still fresh in my mind. I cringed and thought, “Damn! Why did I read this right now?!”

In the next few weeks that followed, I read more, discovered more and interacted with women who were strong and took a stand. I had now mustered the courage to take a stand too. There are so many women out there, brave and strong. So many who are working tirelessly to stop oppression against women. This oppression is so deep rooted, you don't even realize it's wrong. The mind, like the body, becomes numb and decides to ignore and forget the experience. I realized much later that \you also have the right to feel free, to your own body even if it's against social norms. Maybe I knew that all along but I realized it much later.

The fight against FGM for me isn't about FGM alone. It is symbolic of so much that is deep rooted in our psyche as girls, as women and as a society. I, being a girl, have held beliefs that were sexist and extremely biased against women. And for so long I did not question them. Very slowly but steadily, I have begun to read and question things. People like Masooma and Zehra have been sources of inspiration and doors of knowledge. I am still learning to question and slowly standing up to things. And perhaps that is why the battle against FGM is an extremely important one. FGM is barbaric because little girls have no idea what and why it's happening to them, let alone consent. We are being taught from the beginning that consent isn't our privilege. We grow up with blurry ideas about consent, physical space and our own right over our body. I am grateful that my eyes were opened to a space where I experienced freedom, where I began to question and where I learn to love and respect myself.

One might wonder: if I feel strongly about it, why am I not stepping out in the open and letting the world know I detest it? I grapple with this question every so often myself. But my identity is not mine alone, it will reflect on my family and make their life in the community difficult. I hope I can speak out truly one day. And for those who read this today, know that many like me exist - I can be your daughter, your wife, your sister - and I stand against FGM of any form.