This Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Is Fighting to End Female Genital Mutilation

Photo: Courtesy of Jaha Dukureh

Jaha Dukureh is a force to be reckoned with. After the death of her mother, who passed away when Dukureh was only 14, she arrived in New York City from The Gambia, her native country, on Christmas Day 2004. While most girls her age were busy opening presents and watching holiday movies in their pajamas, Dukureh was getting married off to a much older man.

On her wedding day, Dukureh sat down with women from her community. It was a celebration of sorts, but they also had a message—to teach her about her sexuality in preparation for her imminent marriage. The conversation came with warning signs: They stressed tips to ease the pain associated with intercourse, but not the type of pain you're told about as a typical teenager. It wasn't until she was faced with the act itself on her first night with her husband that she realized what had happened to her: She had undergone female genital mutilation when she was just a baby.

Now in her late 20s, Dukureh has already accomplished more than most women will in a lifetime. Following a divorce from her first husband, she fought to get an education after no schools would accept her without the consent of a parent or guardian. Where others would have crumbled, she persisted. She eventually earned a bachelor's degree in business administration management and a master's degree in public administration. She married a man who understood and supported her. She welcomed three beautiful children into the world. After the birth of her daughter, she knew something had to change—and she had to be at the forefront.

She founded Safe Hands for Girls to educate her community on the misconceptions surrounding FGM. In 2014, she urged President Obama to conduct a study on FGM in the U.S., which drew worldwide attention to the issue. She organized The Gambia's first FGM Youth Conference—which led to successfully banning the practice in her country of birth. As a result, she was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People. A documentary on her life called Jaha's Promise premiered at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival in 2017. She now works with the UN as the first regional goodwill ambassador for Africa and is currently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Her goal: to eradicate FGM entirely by 2030.

Read the brave journey of an incredible woman who is unafraid to fight tooth and nail to end a widespread, barbaric practice that affects millions of girls.

Ed. note: This story has sensitive content that might be triggering to some.