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FGM: In My Country of Somaliland 97% of Girls Are Cut - I've Saved Some But What About the Rest?

06/02/2015 11:32 | Updated 08 April 2015

I get tears in my eyes when I think of my daughter. Why? Because in my country, Somaliland, 97 per cent of girls are genitally mutilated and the age at which they are traditionally cut can be as young as she is.. When I look at her I wonder how people can do this to their innocent children.
Between the ages of four and eleven years of age girls in Somaliland undergo 'Phraronic' female genital mutilation - which is an extreme form.

What this means is that they are cut and stitched up not just once but three times in their lifetime.

  • Firstly in childhood
  • Again when they are married
  • Then after the birth of each child

I head up ActionAid in Somaliland - I been in this position for almost two years and although the work I do on eradicating female genital mutilation is deeply rooted in my day-to-day work it's also extremely personal to me.

I feel so proud of saving my sister

FGM is so ingrained within our culture that if you are not mutilated you are ostracised. However, fifteen years ago I saved my youngest sister who is eleven years younger than me from being cut.

To hide the fact that we were breaking away from tradition and the stigma she'd face from her peers, we took my sister out of school for a week and then she told her friends that she had had it done. It wasn't easy - until the day she was married my mother held me accountable - saying that if this girl doesn't get married it will by your responsibility.

Ensuring that my sister was not cut is my proudest personal achievement to date. She now has her own daughter, as do I, and we vow that they will not go through this.

I have worked at ActionAid to set up 53 women's groups across the country, which educate communities about the alternatives to FGM and step in negotiate escape. As part of a women's movement we have saved a million girls from Phraronic FGM.

Last week I attended a meeting at the ministry of family and social affairs where I am trying to develop a policy against FGM. I was faced with opposition by men in positions of power - but I stood my ground. I will not be silenced.

Our society deems FGM a way to 'protect' their girls. The justification is that young girls who have been mutilated won't be able to have pre-marital sex. This is linked to marriage. Women have limited access to employment so marriage is critical to women's economic security. Failure to do this creates long-lasting shame to the whole family.

The social pressure killed her

A cousin of mine was ten and hadn't yet had FGM. She committed suicide. She just couldn't stand the social pressure. This always sticks in my head as I was a child at the time and was unable to save her. I can't turn back the time, but I can do everything in my power now to protect girls.

ActionAid raises awareness through the media. We hold debates. We bring community leaders, women and young people together. Previously young people weren't involved, but now we feel that it's very important to educate those who will become future wives and the young men too. This means going into schools as well as using women's groups and coalitions and talking to families as well.

I am speaking out because I believe in breaking the culture of silence that is so prevalent in my country. Women and girls are mutilated and they also risk a lifelong sentence of pain, infection, infertility and even death. My work is to establish an outright ban on all forms of female genital mutilation - I am for zero tolerance against all cutting. Only when this violation is clearly banned by law and people are held accountable and fear the penalties will it end.

To help Sadia's fight to #endFGM please donate here