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Somalia, 15 March 2016: Former circumciser leads the campaign against FGM/C

© UNICEF Somalia/2016/Ismail
Former circumciser Ebado reinacts the ceremony in 2013 when she handed over her FGM/C equipment. The ceremony which took place Ga,an-Libah District in Hargeisa was watched by a group of parents trained by CCBRS.

By Abdirahman Hashi Mohamed Ismail

Hawl-wadaag village in Hargeisa, Somaliland, March 2016 – Grandmother Ebado Mohamed Elmi used to make her living by circumcising young girls, but she is now one of the leading activists against female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C) in her village in Somaliland.

Ebado trained in 1974 as an auxiliary nurse but found that circumcision was a good means of income to support her family.

‘The first time I carried out an FGM/C was on my five-year-old daughter and I was worried if I would do it properly. Fortunately, I did and after that I became a well known, respected circumciser in my community, and travelled around Somaliland to identify more girls who needed circumcision,” she said.

Since that first time, she circumcised more than 8,000 young girls. Her long experience meant that even families far away would come to her. Then, three years ago all that changed. She attended a community interactive learning session on FGM/C organized by Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Somaliland (CCBRS) funded through UNICEF with support from the Joint Health and Nutrition Programme and the Joint UNICEF/UNFPA Global Program on accelerating FGM/C abandonment.

“The religious leaders clarified that FGM/C is not a religious requirement,” she said. “I felt miserable and ashamed. I recognized that my profession was gravely harming the life of young girls. I realized that FGM/C is not part of Islam but it is terrible practice that violates the rights of women and girls.”

She said from that day, she began to think about the damage she had caused.

“I had to go to a public meeting to tell people that I have stopped practicing FGM/C so that they should not call me to circumcise their daughters,” she said. “Since then, to compensate for my former mistakes, I became determined to advocate total abandonment of FGM/C from my community.”

She started an FGM/C eradication campaign in 2013 and handed over her tools for circumcision such as knives, scissors and razors to CCBRS. She became a role model for other circumcisers in her district, wrote songs about abandonment and persuaded some 20 other circumcisers to stop. She joined an anti-FGM/C committee and has led 50 awareness raising campaigns on FGM/C abandonment in different villages of Ga’an-Libah District of Hargeisa.

“I saved more than 970 young girls from FGM/C including my granddaughters, neighbours and other families in different villages after I conducted regular advocacy and discussions with their parents and close relatives to protect their daughters from mutilation,” she said.

Initially Ebado was concerned about how she would make some income now she has stopped carrying out FGM/C. However, she has started small poultry scheme to support her family, has around 20 chickens and supplies eggs to shops.



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