Somaliland: ‘I convinced my sister not to do type III FGM on her daughter’

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These are the young men fighting against all odds to legislate change in a generation and be enhanced the lives of Somali women

In Somaliland, Unicef estimates that about 98% of girls and women between 15 and 49 are subjected to some form of female genital mutilation almost a despairing figure. This is largely such issues in the hands of women, and not something openly discussed. Yet Unicef believes it is vital that humankinds are part of any solution. Young humankinds in the region who are against the practice are forming a developing movement for change, but the drought crisis is predominating peoples lives right now.

Khadar, 24

The first thing I did as a campaigner is convince my sister not to do Type III FGM on her daughter. I told her about the side effects and I also made her listen to Islamic intellectuals that are against the practice to show her that FGM is not religious. After a lot of negotiation, she agreed and didnt do it. I am proud of that. Khadar, is now working as research projects co-ordinator for ActionAid. He was trained by the indigenous-Somali organisation Candlelight.

Men, in general do not speak about FGM. It remains a taboo, he says.

Men here are the heads of the household and this means they can play an important role in terminating FGM, if they chose to.

While studying at the University of Hargeisa, Khadar was exposed to the realities and consequences of FGM on womens health. Once I realised the psychological and physical trauma, I was against it. He became an anti-FGM ambassador at his university and seemed more confident in challenging some of his peers. When I tell others all the facts, specially young people, they are easily persuaded. Lack of knowledge is the reason FGM is still practised in Somaliland. I am confident that FGM can be eradicated in one generation.

Mohamed,
Mohamed, 23, uses social media to spread the message Photograph: Alice Rowsome

Mohamed, 23

Sitting opposite him boozing spiced tea, Mohamed nods his heads in agreement. Our mothers generation really didnt talking here FGM but now, you are familiar with, we speak about it among our friends. This will make a big difference.

Also trained by Candlelight, Mohamed has espoused social media to campaign.

Men have read first hand the impact of FGM on their wives. In some, lesser routes, humankinds have been affected too. Many say that they fight since they are determine their spouse in pain and cannot have sex with them. They see that FGM takes away all sexual amusement for women. They crave their wives to have amusement too. And so largely, they are against it.

FGM can cause divorces, a bad thing for society. But because there is no talk and because it is taboo, they dont speak out. he says.

Social media, both men concur, has proved its significant tool. I have been posting many different articles about the job we are doing. Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, it has proved a good way for people to read about it in their own period, from the privacy of their phones and computers.

Ali,
Ali, 28, who results Candlelights FGM campaign, warns that the drought is affecting everything. Photo: Alice Rowsome

Ali, 28

Ali, who results Candlelights FGM campaign, warns that the drought is affecting the anti-FGM campaign.

We cant go to communities who have no water or food and announce to them we are here to tell them to stop FGM. It would be absurd.

Most of Candlelights outreach campaigns are aimed at communities in rural areas where Type III FGM is the standard. Anti-FGM events they organise typically bring together community elders, religious leaders, local men and women, youth and university students like Ali and Mohamed.

But Somaliland is suffering from one of the most difficult droughts in years. The water and food security crisis has meant that all of their programmes in rural areas in villages, that were due to start in January, have been cancelled until they are able to provide water and food to the communities they are targeting.

While people dont have enough food and water it is not sensible for us to talk about FGM with them, says Ali.

Alice Rowsomes journey to the region was facilitated by two Somali organisations, Candlelight and Transparency Solutions .

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