Jaha Dukureh

time 100 2016 jaha dukureh
Neilson Barnard—Getty Images

Voicing the unspeakable

Sometimes when a thing is unbearable to imagine, we do the opposite of what we should: we turn away, shielding our hearts and minds in order to preserve our own peace. In speaking out against female genital mutilation, Jaha Dukureh has refused to let horror be silenced. When she was an infant, her external sexual organs were amputated in her native Gambia. Now living in Atlanta, she founded Safe Hands for Girls to fight the practice both internationally and in the U.S., where 500,000 women have been or are at risk of being victimized. Dukureh’s efforts helped make it a crime to transport American girls abroad for FGM. Although she has faced anger and threats from her community, the thought of her three children keeps her going. “I don’t want them to have to face the challenges I did,” she says, “whether it’s early marriage or FGM. I don’t want them to have to live in fear. I don’t want any girl to ever feel that way.”

Orenstein is the author of several books about young women including, most recently, Girls & Sex

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