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

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These are the young men struggling 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 an issue in the hands of the status of women, and not something openly discussed. Yet Unicef believes it is vital that humen are part of any solution. Young humen of the states of the region who are against the practice are forming a growing movement for change, but the drought crisis is predominating people 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 depict 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 a project 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 investigating at the University of Hargeisa, Khadar was exposed to the realities and the effects of FGM on womens health. Once I realised the psychological and physical trauma, I was against it. He became an anti-FGM diplomat at his university and felt 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 practiced 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 actually didnt talk about FGM but now, you are familiar with, we are talking here 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 spouses. In some, lesser behaviors, humen have been affected too. Many say that they battle since they are realize their spouse in pain and cannot have sex with them. They see that FGM takes away all sexual amusement for women. They want their spouses 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 operate 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 leads Candlelights FGM campaign, warns that the drought is affecting everything. Photograph: Alice Rowsome

Ali, 28

Ali, who leads 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 worst droughts in years. The water and food security crisis has meant that all of their programmes in rural 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, mentions Ali.

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

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