Fatuma – Facebook has been good to me.
I read a post that appeared on my Facebook feed regarding the first Immigration ban in the US. There was something about the honesty and compassion in that post that moved me to write a comment. This person expressed fear without anger and spoke of gratitude no matter what. I “liked” it without knowing anything about Fatuma Adir, other than that she was kind and wore a headscarf. She accepted my request. Fatuma has only 350 friends and had over 6000 comments to that post. Gratefully she is now my real friend.
She is a fierce warrior for peace, women’s rights and a devout Muslim. Fatuma is from a small village called Marsabat about 1000 kilometers from Nairobi, Kenya. She founded HODI (“To champion justice and development in the Horn of Africa through advocacy, education, peace building and sustainable livelihoods.”) HODI won the 2017 Peace and Sport award for NGO of the year. She sits on the board of Streetfootballworld ( SFW,) an organization that is in 77 countries. They believe that Football (soccer) has a unique power to change the world for good. Their goal is to unleash this power.
My first meeting with Fatuma was in Asheville, NC. She was visiting a friend, another incredible woman activist, after attending a SFW conference in Atlanta and a speaking engagement at the UN. I vividly remember my tears, my passion and the excitement I felt at the airport knowing that I was following my heart to connect with a soul sister. Later that year I flew to NYC to see her participate at the Global Goal Games. This event brought together 24 teams of women from around the world, all of whom stood up for equality, peace, the environment and all things human. Fatuma played soccer with the “Dream Team” which consisted of 8 women from around the globe each chosen for their contributions to women’s rights. Fatuma, Dina Smailova, Khalida Popal, Emma Holten, Assamaah Helal, Tshidi Lakate, and Muzoon Al-Mellehan all came together in NYC to represent all women from around the world who stand up for what’s right. Using the word “brave” to describe these activists is an understatement. Daily these women defy the odds in places where making a stand can be perilous. If you are so inclined just click on any of these women’s links, they are remarkable.
In NYC I was able to spend some more time with Fatuma. We visited an exhibition of “ The Face of Defiance,” a portrait project featuring survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM). These women who were victims of a brutal cultural tradition now champion a cause to end the custom. I felt proud (if only by association) to be with women who have the courage of their convictions. My goal is to continue to do my part to share stories of people who stand up on the global stage to create change, and to share stories of any human that handles adversity with grace and compassion. We are, in fact, one human family. When I feel touched with empathy and love, I feel more connected and real in my own life.
Fatuma in her own words.
“All I have is gratitude”
Most at times we are faced with adversity and we have to make tough choices between taking off or staying on and trying to get your hands muddy. None of the choices are easy but for me running away was not a choice. I thought of almost 15 years ago when I started out in this journey. I studied law and opted to go back home and help initiate some legal aid for those who couldn’t afford and access the services of a lawyer. That journey saw me dealing with issues of tribal conflict and then brought me to using football to shoot to score, not to kill; breaking the silence on FGM (female genital mutilation), early marriage and beading. At times it is so scary and feels so lonely but everyday gratitude is all I have, for I get to live my dream.