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Community discussions point the way forward on eradicating Female Genital Mutilation in Somalia

UNICEF Somalia/2018/Holt
© UNICEF Somalia/2018/Holt
Community support worker - Zeinab Elmi (Centre in White) GBV coordinator for TASS, a partner of UNICE that does advocacy work around FGM takes part in a community meeting where FGM is being discussed in Shabelle camp for displaced people in Garowe.

By Susannah Price, UNICEF Somalia Chief of Communication

Garowe, Puntland, 21 April 2018 - During the large meeting of community elders, medical experts, teachers and other community members to discuss female genital mutilation/cutting, nine year old Rahmo sits gravely at the back listening carefully.

She is one of the lucky ones. Her mother Farhiyo has attended many of these meetings and talked to sheikhs and community leaders and realized that FGM/C is not part of Islam and is harmful to young girls.

“My three eldest girls were cut and they are now married – but then I met Sheikhs and Community leaders and realized how wrong it was. Now I won’t touch my young daughters and I will tell my teenage boys why it is wrong as well,” said Farhiyo.

The local community, mainly people from rural Somalia and neighboring Ethiopia who moved to settlements near the town of Garowe several years ago. UNICEF supports a local NGO called TASS to carry out community work on awareness raising on FGM/C. This involves the Child Protection Committees who are chosen by the community. Donors who fund UNICEF’s work to combat FGM/C include Japan, the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID) and the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). 

Faduma Mohamed Hussein, a health worker at local Mother and Child health centre nearby said she had seen countless problems caused by FGM/C.

“Young girls come with infections, older women have problems delivering babies and it can affect their fertility,” she said.

One member of the Child Protection Committee, Mohamed Abdi Ahmed told the meeting: “I have agreed with my wife that we won’t cut our daughters who are nine and three. If we see anyone trying to take the girls for cutting we tell them we will call the police.”

The discussion touched on several issues – how families now tried to hide the fact they were continuing with FGM, if men should say they would not marry a girl who had undergone FGM and women talking about their own painful experiences.

UNICEF Somalia/2018/Holt
© UNICEF Somalia/2018/Holt
Halimo Mohamed Farah, who previously a cutter but gave up in 2001 takes part in a community meeting where FGM is being discussed in Shabelle camp for displaced people in Garowe Somalia.

Also listening intently was former cutter Halimo Mohamed Farah aged 50.

“I must have cut more than a thousand girls but then I went to a meeting and heard this was not part of our religion and I stopped and begged Allah to forgive me, ” she said.

As the meeting came to a close, everyone was in agreement that FGM needed to be stopped and there were several suggestions about the way forward.

Zainab Elmi Gender Based Violence coordinator for TASS said it was important that the community talks about the problems of FGM and how to eradicate it. “Having a dialogue involving both men and women is the key,” she said. “They need to agree and come up with their own solutions.” 



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