Did You Know…? Anti-FGM Activists out of Somalia

This column of “Did You Know…” is intended to help inform and educate our readers on the practice of FGM.  Last week, we reviewed Egypt and their practices of female genital mutilation.  This week, we will take a look at Somalia, and how far that country has come toward ending the practice.

Somalia is known as the country located in the “Horn of Africa”.   It is bordered by Kenya, Djibouti, Egypt, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to the north.  The capital is Mogadishu.

According to statistics, ninety-five percent (95%) of girls in Somalia undergo FGM between the ages of 4 and 11.  Culturally, the expectation for girls to undergo female genital mutilation is closely associated with sex and marriage. It is believed that the men expect the girls to be virgins when they marry them.  There is also the myth that if a girl has not undergone female genital mutilation, she is considered unclean and will not remain a virgin up to the day of marriage.  The girls are cut and the remaining skin is stitched together and is only opened on the day of marriage.  That opening entails another cutting.

A couple of years ago, the officials in Somalia were looking into ending the practice of FGM.  Some of the girls at the time felt that even eliminating the stitching (Type IV – Infibulation) would have been an improvement to what they now undergo.  The Infibulation type leaves the girls with only a very small opening, which accounts for painful urination and menstrual cycles.

Out of that ninety-five percent of Somali girls, are some world renowned women today; former fashion models, Iman and Waris Dirie and British Activist and Teacher, Hibo Wardere are three of the survivors of FGM from Somalia. Following their high fashion careers, both Iman and Waris spoke out against the practice of FGM.  Waris has authored several books, including her personal story; and she has spent most of her adult life advocating and campaigning for an end to the practice of FGM.  Today, Hibo is one of the biggest activists against FGM in the world.  She is known throughout the U.K. as a Mediator, Trainer of FGM and an Anti-FGM campaigner.