Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM), Sierra Leone
Rugiatu Turay is Local Hero and activist in Sierra Leone working to end the abusive cultural practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). At just 12 years of age, Rugiatu was forced to undergo FGM while staying at her aunt’s house. She was blindfolded, stripped, and laid on the ground. Women sat on her arms, chest, and legs so she could not move. A rag was stuffed in her mouth, and her clitoris was cut off with a crude knife. Rugiatu recalls that, “Nobody talked to [her] but there was clapping, singing, and shouting … all they could say is ‘Today you have become a woman.’” The women told her that she was never to talk about what happened or her belly would swell and she would die.
During the civil war in Sierra Leone, Rugiatu fled the country in 1997. In a refugee camp in Guinea she met women who also opposed the brutal practice of FGM. The women bonded and together founded the human rights grassroots organization Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM). Their goal is to prevent abuse and violence against young girls that occurs in the name of culture. In 2003, Rugiatu returned to Sierra Leone and began her educational work, teaching girls and women that this archaic and abusive practice must end. Despite numerous death threats, Rugiatu works hard to persuade the soweis, the women who do the cutting, to lay down their knives and stop FGM. AIM also works against other violations of women’s rights such as early and forced marriage and violence in marriage. Read more about Rugiatu and her project with GO below.