BIO: JAHA DUKUREH

• Women’s Rights & Political Activist

• Managing Co-Founder, Until We’re Equal

• Founder, Safe Hands For Girls

• UN Women’s first ever Goodwill Ambassador to Africa to help end FGM & Child Marriage.

• Founding member of The NewNow.

• One of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

• In 2018 at the age of 28, Jaha was the youngest African ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  

“The most important thing about Jaha’s struggle is that the law was changed and it is actually being followed up in Gambia. I have nominated Jaha because she is a living proof of that the belief of a single person can cause them to change the world.” — Norwegian politician Jette Christenssen

Jaha was born in a small Gambian village in 1989 where she was a victim of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at one week old.  Her arranged marriage to an unknown older man at age 15 brought her to New York City. After two months, Jaha was able to get away from her abusive husband, continued her education and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2015. 

As a mother and a survivor of FGM and child marriage, Jaha believes that by coming together, we can end these practices within a generation and is dedicating her life to making that a reality. This vision led her to start Safe Hands for Girls, a survivor led U.S. based nonprofit organization whose grassroots programs create awareness of FGM and other forms of violence against women through education, advocacy and youth-led campaigns.  It is working to create a world in which every woman and girl is free from FGM and all forms of gender-based violence, and has the support, knowledge, tools and self-esteem to reach her full potential.   

Confronting her past, her family, her culture, her religion, country and its leaders, Jaha became a lightning-rod for change in The Gambia.   Returning to The Gambia, the grassroots campaign she initiated led to the government ban on FGM and child marriage in 2015, which brought her global recognition.  Jaha is currently focused on scaling an African led movement, The Big Sisters Movement, to end FGM and child marriage by 2030.  

She is the subject of 'Jaha's Promise,' a feature length documentary film by The Guardian and Accidental Pictures that filmed her work as she returned to the Gambia to lead a successful campaign against the brutal practices that nearly destroyed her life.  The film premiered at the United Nations in June of 2017, at an event hosted by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. where Jaha  received a standing ovation. 

Jaha was appointed the first ever UN Women Ambassador for Africa in February 2018. In this role, Jaha supports UN Women’s advocacy to end FGM and child marriage in Africa, with a focus on mobilizing youth. She holds a similar advising role at The World Bank. She has become the leading voice of a new generation of African women rising up to demand equality for women. 

Jaha’s activist journey began at the age of 24 as she gathered national grassroots support calling for the first U.S. survey to determine the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in America, garnering over 225,000 signatures.  With over 500,000 girls being at risk of going through FGM in the United States, this led to her lobbying for a law that made it a crime to transport American girls abroad for FGM.   Her campaign was recognized by President Barack Obama, and received the backing from former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, and members of Congress, including Senator Harry Reid, and Congressmen John Lewis and Joseph Crowley. 

In June 2019,  Jaha successfully convened Africa4Girls Summit, the first ever pan-African Summit on ending Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriages in Dakar, Senegal. The Summit was attended by 1,400 participants and marks the first initiative bringing together leaders from all sectors - governments, religious leaders, traditional community leaders, alongside young civil society leaders, notably young women activists and survivors of FGM and child marriage. Ministers, UN leaders and Heads of State from 17 African governments attended the 3 day Summit. Her leadership, courage, and informed advocacy has been pivotal in engaging religious leaders in the coalition of stakeholder dedicated to ending FGM in Africa. History was made at the Africa4Girls Summit when the deputy grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Dr. Salah Abbas, issued a fatwa against child marriage. A fatwa is a formal ruling in Islamic law, and its authority is considered absolute. The office of the Imam of Al Azhar is considered the highest authority in Islamic law for Sunni Muslims, who account for around 75% to 90% of all Muslims globally.

In July 2021, Jaha was appointed the Managing Co-founder of Until We’re Equal, a campaign with the mission to build female political power by driving recurring support for progressive female-led, female-focused 501c4 political organizers across the United States.  Since its founding in March 2020, the organization has provided close to $10M in c4grants. Jaha was also recently appointed the co-chair of Youth for The Inter Party Committee of the Gambia, which consists of all political parties and their leaders. Her role as co-chair is to promote unity, collaboration, peace building and joint solutions to challenges facing the nation.

Jaha is also dedicating herself to supporting a new generation of activists as one of the founding members of The NewNow, a group of global leaders who work together to ensure that the voices of rising young leaders are heard and that their agendas are implemented. As a group, The NewNow Leaders build upon their experience by working together for change through collective action. Their goal is to achieve deep, sustainable, and transformative global impact. The NewNow was established and funded with support from Richard Branson and his foundation, Virgin Unite.

Her work has been met by international acclaim, being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, awarded the 2018 Eleanor Roosevelt Medal of Honor, as well as being recognized as among the Times "100 Most Influential People in the World." She was named “African Youth of The Year” and has received many other notable awards. New African Magazine name  her “One of the 100 most influential African’s.” She is an honoree of L’Oréal Paris’s own Women of Worth program, and was the very first member of the philanthropic program to become a global brand ambassador.

Jaha received the Georgia Southwestern State University Outstanding Alumni Visionary Award in March of 2021.  To honor her impact on the world and on the University, Room 203 in the Business, History and Political Science Building of the College of Business and Computing is being named for Jaha Dukureh with a ribbon cutting ceremony being held in December 2021. The classroom will include new technology and feature a wall length mural made up of pictures paying homage to Jaha, her organization “Safe Hands for Girls”, and her activism which led to the banning of female genital mutilation in The Gambia.

About Jaha’s Speaking Engagements

Jaha leads by example to inspire women and girls to become leaders in creating a better future for their communities and countries.  Jaha speaks about her journey from being a survivor of FGM and child marriage to becoming a fierce advocate for the rights of some of the most marginalized and underserved women and girls in the world. She shares what she has learned about creating change, the power of collaboration, and that you don’t have to be perfect to be a leader. Talking about her own experiences and those she has witnessed in the field, Jaha also shares lessons from other survivors, their vulnerability and ability to affect change in their communities. Her talks help those attending to become more effective agents of change; personally, locally and globally.  Jaha’s talk includes clips from the documentary film Jaha’s Promise. Inquire about also scheduling a full screening.

Jaha Dukureh, Honoree at Equality Now's 2016 Make Equality Reality Gala

Jaha Dukureh, female genital mutilation (FGM) survivor activist, 'Time 100' honoree and founder of Safe Hands for Girls', introduced by Gloria Steinem

Jaha Dukureh: ABC News

Jaha Dukureh underwent female genital mutilation as a baby in the Gambia, and is actively campaigning to end the practice around the world.

Jaha Dukureh: Film Trailer for Documentary "Jaha's Promise"

A film about Jaha Dukureh's journey from being a victim of FGM & forced childhood marriage to being one of Time's 100 Most Influential People.

Jaha Dukureh at the World Youth Forum 11.04.2018

On this prestigious panel in Egypt, in front of many of the leaders of Africa, Jaha addresses Egypt's President Sisi on supporting rights for women.

Jaha Dukureh at Georgia Southwestern University

Speaking at the Griffonbell Lecture Series hosted by the University President

Jaha Dukureh in conversation with Richard Branson & Uzo Iweala at One Young World - OYW 2019.

Richard Branson in conversation with Jaha Dukureh and Uzo Iweala about fighting inequality and injustice, exploring how rising global leaders are cha

Jaha Dukureh's 2018 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal acceptance speech.

The ELEANOR ROOSEVELT VAL-KILL MEDAL Honors Individuals whose far-reaching influence has made our world a better place.

"From the moment Jaha Dukureh began to speak our young women were riveted.  Her mission and her life has been dedicated to challenging a system of oppression for young women in Africa and her frankness, strength and message was a charge and a call to action that resonated with the audience. Jaha not only envisions a better world but provided concrete steps that people can take to support women and children . Her message was empowering for our next generation and for our staff. Jaha’s belief that one person can start a movement but with collective effort we can change the world left us feeling hopeful that we too could contribute to raising awareness and impact the practice of child marriage and female genital mutilation. It was an honor to spend time with her and we are deeply appreciative of her message!"

Michele B. Taylor, Dean of Student Leadership
St. Mary's Academy 

The New York Times: "A Fight as U.S. Girl Face Genital Cutting Abroad," https://www.nytimes.com/2014/0...

"Jaha's Promise," FGM film premieres at Copenhagen film festival: https://www.theguardian.com/so...

"End Female Genital Mutilation in the US - Commission a prevalence report on women impacted and girls at risk." The Petitioning of the President Obama: https://www.change.org/p/end-f...

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