Jaha’s Promise tells the story of a young woman who returns home to campaign against the brutal practices that almost destroyed her life. Jaha Dukureh was subject to female genital mutilation as a baby and when she was 15 she was taken to New York City to marry a middle-aged man she’d never met before.
A decade later, having escaped the forced marriage she returned to the Gambia in west Africa. This film constructs Jaha's life story from her own vivid testimony, family archives and witnesses, and centers on her life’s see-saw narrative of setback and success.
Jaha exists in two worlds, Africa and the United States, though neither are places in which she feels she completely belongs. It is also a documentary that focuses on the trials that women like her endure from an early age. As Jaha says, “In our culture a woman is built on sacrifices.”
The 'issue' at the centre of the film, female genital mutilation, is to most people both distasteful and repellent. The women subjected to it are marginal to our society and cultural norms. We view them as hapless victims of a brutal, backward, and ultimately inexplicable practice.
Instinctively we avert our eyes from them and the cruelties they suffer. But Jaha is not a victim and she doesn’t want our sympathy. She wants to hold power structures accountable both in the West and in Africa: she demands respect for the rights of girls no matter what society they live in. Jaha’s Promise captures her story and her spirit.