Zero tolerance for FGM: Communities in Somalia take a stand

By: 
CARE
Nasra Isse, a mother of four and a school principal in Somalia

Somalia has the highest rate of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the world with around 98% of women aged 15 to 49 having undergone it.

On International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM (6th February), women and communities in Somalia and Somaliland are saying enough is enough: this has to stop. Nasra Isse, a mother of four children, says:

I looked at the FGM tragedy that happened to me. The tragedy that befell my mother. The tragedy that has happened to us all.

And now we stand to change that so the next generation can be safe from the risk of FGM.

Start with my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren.

CARE Somalia/Somaliland established FGM task forces, working at national and district levels, to train and empower community leaders to raise awareness about FGM and create spaces for open dialogue. Nasra, who is principal of a primary school in Erigavo, says:

I am a member of the women’s movement to stop FGM.

After we had training from CARE International, we realised that FGM is a threat to women.

We then decided to lead awareness campaigns against FGM in the Sanaag region.

Nasra Isse walking towards school gate in Somalia
Nasra Isse heads towards her school gates

Amina (name changed), who is also from Erigavo, says:

I was highly motivated by the chance to break the ice on FGM and start community dialogue on a topic that was kept taboo for many years in our community. I am happy that FGM, which was a “women’s issue” and was neglected by men for so long, now concerns both men and women who finally talk about this issue openly even on national television!

FGM has destroyed so many young girls’ lives. Everyone needs to face the truth that FGM only brings a lifetime of challenges for both wife and husband, physically and psychologically.

FGM results in complications that range from bleeding and infection to problems with urination and complications with childbearing and this has contributed to Somalia having one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

Iman Abdullahi, CARE Somalia/Somaliland country director, says:

The effects of FGM are far-reaching and stay with the girls until they grow up. We should be putting our focus on investing in the girl child, they need education and access to sexual reproductive information so that they can make decisions for themselves.

Abdullahi says the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse “as there have been reports of door-to-door FGM occurring during the period schools closed and all the girls were at home”. He says:

CARE has been working with communities and we are happy to see mothers and girls now beginning to speak against the practice. We have established school clubs and we now have girl champions who are raising awareness within their communities on the detrimental effects of FGM.

CARE is calling upon the relevant authorities to adopt a zero-tolerance approach on all forms of FGM. But it is Nasra Isse who has the final word:

Women around the world have the right to security and freedom both physically and mentally. All their rights. FGM, which violates women’s rights and destroys their education and their health, and harms their bodies and minds, must be stopped.

Watch the video featuring Nasra Isse:

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.