On the final season of hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black, we’re introduced to Shani Abboud, an Egyptian woman who ends up in a detention facility in the U.S (and hooks up with Litchfield Penitentiary favourite Nicky Nichols).
Like many of the detainees, Shani’s story is a heartbreaking one – escaping a possible honour killing and surviving female genital mutilation (FGM) at the age of 12. Now, actress Marie-Lou Nahhas who so warmly brought Shani’s character to life, is using her platform to highlight the realities of FGM around the world.
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Marie-Lou has travelled to Africa this week with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
“I’m in Ethiopia to learn more about UNFPA’s ongoing work to #EndFGM” she writes in an Insta post, where some of the highest rates of FGM still occur, even though there are laws in place making it illegal.
“As many of you know, on the final season of OITNB, I play the role of Shani, a survivor of female genital mutilation – a harmful practice that involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons, and is internationally recognised as a human rights violation.”
According to the World Health Organisation, there are 200 million girls and women alive today who have undergone FGM in some form. And a further 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM every single year.
Marie-Lou is spending time in Ethiopia’s Afar region to meet three women who are part of a UNFPA documentary about abandoning the practice as a community.
The UNFPA’s programs not only educate girls and women about the harm caused by FGM but also empower them to make the decision to say “no”. To date, over 31 million people in more than 15 countries have made public declarations to abandon FGM.
Responding to a fan who praised Marie-Lou for using her platform to highlight this important issue, she says “the most rewarding thing in life is to be part of something eternal. And the way do (that) is to be human and not accept actions that dehumanise us.”