All of my friends and family will tell you, I'm a bit 'odd'. I have a tolerance for things that are a little bit ick, a little bit bloody or gruesome and the ability to talk about things that make most people gag at the dinner table. But as anyone who knows any nurse will tell you, it's really not all that odd.
People like me, a Muslim boy who felt FGM was not my concern, are slowly waking up to the fact that FGM is everybody's business. Grooming is also everybody's business. Radicalisation is also abuse, and it is everybody's business. And because it is everybody's business, it is our duty to fight it - and to protect vulnerable young people.
FGM, like veiling is not a practice confined to far off lands. FGM continues to be practiced illegally on British born girls, with a case reported in the UK approximately every two hours. If FGM is carried out on a white child in Britain, it will be regarded as criminal - so why does this position shift when a Somali child is violated?
WOW is all I can say when I look back at the last five years. So much has changed in the conversation about FGM and ending the practice within our lifetime is now a tangible reality. It is hard to believe that for me this journey started on a Saturday morning in one of the back rooms of Southbank Centre.
On Saturday 6th February it will be 13 years since the first International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation was marked in Nigeria. Organisations across the globe are continuing to fight FGM every single day and managing to remove some of the shroud of secrecy surrounding the practice...
Our record on bringing perpetrators to justice is woeful - even though we know FGM goes on all the time either here or in the girls' mother countries - both of which are illegal. A prosecution was brought - but the defendant was acquitted and so we are still awaiting our first successful prosecution...
FGM is a practice that would seem out of place in the dark ages, and yet it is being inflicted on young people living in our city today. Its frequency is a worrying phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Yet despite its apparent prevalence in the UK, not a single conviction for the illegal practice has ever been achieved.
Governments must ensure girls have knowledge of and support in exercising their own rights; a supportive environment where they can voice their concerns without fear of stigma or disbelief; assurance that they will not be re-victimised through a slow legal process; and girl-centred, specialist support services, if and when they are required.
I managed to escape the cut. My father was an educated man and did not want his children to experience it. Sadly he died when I was a child, but by the time I reached the cutting age, I refused it because of his teaching and my mother gave me shelter and protection. Many of my friends were not so lucky. ..
Tackling FGM might be a slow and long process, but with every lesson learned we'll get a little bit further towards our goal. It's comforting to see the willingness among all agencies in this country to end new cases of FGM. We are certainly going in the right direction, yet we need to ensure that all the willingness and commitment is not just talk...
Medical school is of course the traditional route for providing prospective doctors with the core knowledge and tools for the practice ahead. By not including FGM as a part of this process, information of even the basic nature of FGM is not being disseminated across the profession. A condition that affects over 130,000 women across the UK should be known to students who can also come into contact with patients that have undergone FGM or at risk of the act.
At the age of seven I was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). This did not happen because I was African or Muslim, but because I was female. I came back from that summer trip to Somalia to continue to live in the United Kingdom. By the age of 11, I had worked out that FGM was rooted in patriarchy and assumed that those tasked with leading this country would recognise this too, and care enough to protect girls like me. I also assumed that by the time I grew up I would be paid equally to men and be able to have a baby without affecting my career. But the older I got the more I lost faith that - without radical change - this equality would be something I would ever actually experience.