In India's tight-knit Bohra Muslim community, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), or khafz, is a common practice. Girls as young as seven undergo the procedure — said to dull female sexual desire — in secret.
Khafz affects an estimated one million Indian women and girls, and those who oppose the practice are often shunned by their community. This fear has silenced many in the past but 51-year-old Masooma Ranalvi is challenging the status quo.
It all started in 2015 when Masooma and her sisters were coming to terms with their own khafz experiences. Though close, the three had never discussed it before. Convinced that she must speak publicly about the issue, Masooma blogged about it and to her surprise, her inbox was flooded with emails of support.
Masooma then started the "WeSpeakOut against FGM" WhatsApp group with her sisters and two other women. Within 10 days, there were 50 members from India and across the world sharing their own khafz stories. This WhatsApp group emerged as a safe and private space for all of them.
"Membership to this group has been a liberating experience," says Masooma. "We were across time zones, but all from one community. We were all survivors."
Today, WeSpeakOut is an organization that reaches thousands of people within the Bohra Muslim community, sparking dialogue and conversations through shareable WhatsApp messages, information on its own website and other social media platforms, and community engagement activities. As a direct result, more than 180,000 people have signed an online petition challenging the practice and at least 1,000 stories about khafz have been published by national and international media outlets.
Standing up to an entrenched, centuries-old practice, and rallying others to do the same, is not easy. WeSpeakOut is putting names and voices to khafz and empowering a new generation of women with information about a life-altering practice.