As a youth activist myself, I’ve turned to seek inspiration from activists from across the globe who are using their voice to create a big impact and focus on the intersectionality of Female Genital Cutting (FGC). When I started a global youth organisation to raise awareness on FGC and advocate for the practise to end globally, reading about the following activists inspired me to take action. They’ve inspired me to believe in my voice and to use it to raise awareness on Gender Based Violence.
Ifrah Ahmed – Somali-Irish Social Activist
Ifrah was born in Somalia. She underwent Female Genital Cutting at the age of 8, in a country where 98% of women undergo the practise. At the age of 17, she fled Somalia during the civil war and went to Ireland as a refugee. She campaigned to introduce legislation in Ireland to ban the practise, which was enacted in 2012.
The Ifrah Foundation combines advocacy, community, education to raise awareness to eradicate the practise. Her story is also featured in ‘A Girl From Mogadishu’ which aims to empower survivors to share their experiences. The Global Citizen podcast featured Ifrah with Hozier. They spoke about her work on ending FGC and her experiences as a survivor and a refugee. She inspires young people across the globe to use their voice to advocate for Ending FGC and says you should “Be the voice”.
Waris Dirie – Somali Model, Author, Actress and Anti-FGM Activist
Waris was born in Somalia and underwent Female Genital Cutting when she was 5 years old. She moved to London and then to New York. She started a foundation called Desert Flower, which seeks to raise awareness on FGC worldwide and save girls from undergoing this practise. Waris was also appointed as a UN Goodwill Ambassador and has written the novels: Saving Safa and Desert Flower. She is a human rights activist, who addressed ministers of EU Member States in 2006. Waris has received multiple awards for her prestigious work.
Edna Adan – Nurse Midwife
Edna is known as the ‘midwife who built a hospital and changed the world’. She grew up in a household where her father was a prominent doctor in Somalia. However, one day when he was away, she underwent FGC at the age of 8. She trained as a midwife and nurse in London.
As Somaliland’s first midwife and first female minister, she has held a number of important positions within the World Health Organization and the Somaliland government. Pursuing the elimination of FGC and the prioritization of the healthcare of women and children has been her mission. In 1986, she became the WHO Regional Nursing Advisor, then went on to become the Regional Technical Officer for Mother and Child Health and worked to end harmful traditional practices that affect the health of women and children. Edna has also held multiple roles within the Somaliland government alongside her responsibilities at the hospital, including the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Social Affairs and Family Welfare. Until 2006, Edna was the only woman minister of Somaliland.
78.3% of girls in Gambia undergo Female Genital Cutting. Jaha is from Gambia and was cut when she was just a week old. She runs an organisation called Safe Hands for Girls to campaign against child marriage and female genital cutting. There is a documentary on her story and she also served as a UN Women Ambassador for Africa to impact gender equality. She contributed and organised efforts to ban FGC in Gambia. Jaha also contributed to President’s Obama’s initiative to determine the prevalence of FGC in the US and encourages young people to mobilise.
The Vavengers are a charity in the UK, founded by Hoda Ali and Mabel who seek to bring communities together to take action, working with survivors on the front lines to prevent the practise from happening to women and girls. It is a community led and advocacy led organisation which focuses on intersectionality of the issue and has led several campaigns in the United Kingdom. Sarian also works with Vavengers for community projects in London and is the Director of Keep the Drum Lose the Knife to support survivors in Sierra Leone and United Kingdom.
Dr. Leyla Hussein and The Dahlia Project
Dr. Leyla is a Psychotherapist and campaigner to ensure that survivors of FGC are supported and has led several campaigns to raise awareness on FGC. She runs the Dahlia Project, which is a holistic service run by trained therapists to provide care to survivors of Female Genital Cutting. Dahlia Project provides additional support through empowerment sessions, community workshops, influencing policy and practise, training for frontline workers, community education and focusing on overall wellbeing of survivors. She states that, “FGC will end when we end all forms of violence and oppression against girls and women”.
Dr. Kakenya and Kakenya’s Dream
Kakenya’s Dream invests in girls from communities through education, leadership and health initiatives. Dr. Kakenya experienced female genital cutting at the age of 5 in preparation for child marriage, she had a different dream and wanted to go to college. She negotiated with her father that she wanted to return to school and went to study in the US and earned a PHD there. Dr. Kakenya founded Kakenya’s Dream to educate girls, ending practises such as child marriage and FGC and opened boarding schools for communities. She became the first women from her village to go to college in the US and strived to serve her community after getting her education. Dr. Kakenya featured in Melinda Gates’s book, is part of CNN Hero’s, has been named Women of Impact, Women who shake the world and Vital Voices.
“We deserve to raise girls in a world where they are not threatened by cutting because they are born female”.– Dr. Leyla Hussein
These activists have inspired me to focus on collective and community action. When I first read their stories, I was left feeling empowered, uplifted and one of the most important takeaway for me was that: anyone can make a difference! You can join the End FGC Movement- by learning more about FGC, raising awareness in your community about the global concern it is and writing to your elected representatives to take action.