Friday, November 10, 2017

Almost all women in Somaliland have undergone female genital mutilation

(Evening Standard )- On Monday, the self-declared state in east Africa will elect a new president — and all the candidates have pledged to outlaw the barbaric practice following a campaign backed by the Standard.

About 98 per cent of women in the former British colony, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991, have undergone FGM.

London campaigner Nimco Ali travelled to Somaliland to lobby the three main political parties on the issue. They all met her and promised to bring in legislation to end the procedure.

Frontrunner Musa Bihi Abdi writes today in this newspaper that ending FGM in Somaliland will “complete the circle of a campaign that the Evening Standard has done so much to highlight over the last five years; the campaign to end the practice of FGM or female genital mutilation”.

Ms Ali said: “I can’t explain how beautiful it is or how overwhelmed I am that these things are materialising.

“When I first started campaigning there was a lot of shame, stigma and fear, but now there is hope, conviction and pride.

I am so honoured they met me and what a level of respect I have for each and every one of them.”

Ms Ali met Faisal Ali Warabe of the UCID party, a representative for Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi of the Waddani party, and Mr Abdi of the Kulmiye party.

She offered to work for free for 100 days as a gender adviser to whoever becomes president. She was so shocked by the men’s positive responses that she “high-fived them in delight”.
The presidential election is seen as one of the few genuinely positive events in the region at the moment.

Nearly 800,000 voters have been registered for the first election in Africa to use iris-recognition software to prevent electoral fraud.

Ms Ali said: “The candidates were incredibly busy travelling from one city to another campaigning. For them to make time and speak so patiently and openly about something so  deeply-rooted and stigmatised was amazing. “We are meant to be ashamed of this thing, but by talking about it it showed how progressive they are.

“They were all super-informed about FGM but were waiting for someone to give them the legitimacy to talk about it.” She admitted that speaking to the men about the issue was daunting, but added: “Ending FGM through legislation is the key thing for a place where prevalence levels are so high.

“It is fundamental to the success of Somaliland. It cannot be successful if the women are repressed.”