Peo­ple who are en­forc­ing it ( fgm) are putting their community ahead of their chil­dren’s health

WKND - - Social Issues Taking A Stand -

women who are coura­geous enough to re­call the in­ci­dent and men who are con­demn­ing it. It is a book of education and, to me, it’s a book of hope.”

The best part of her work, she ad­mits, is ed­u­cat­ing chil­dren, who are then ask­ing their par­ents hard ques­tions. It seems to be work­ing as well — only last year, a mother ac­costed her in a bus be­cause she was fu­ri­ous that her daugh­ter had been in­formed that FGM was un­nec­es­sary and il­le­gal in the UK. But in­ci­dents like these only make Hibo all the more cer­tain that she is push­ing the right but­tons.

“Par­ents need to be ed­u­cated too, be­cause so many women are con­di­tioned into think­ing that it is a nec­es­sary process — no mat­ter the cost,” says Hibo. “These are women who have lived with the pain all their lives. They have prob­a­bly been more sus­cep­ti­ble to in­fec­tions and have prob­lems be­ing in­ti­mate and giv­ing birth. But they think that that is just the way things are sup­posed to be. They have not made the con­nec­tion be­tween their prob­lems and the pro­ce­dure they had when they were lit­tle.”

So what is the so­lu­tion to the is­sue? Ac­cord­ing to Hibo, the right laws are nec­es­sary. In the UK, the prac­tice can land a par­ent in jail for up to 10 years while their chil­dren will be taken away by so­cial ser­vices. Many other coun­tries around the world have is­sued sim­i­lar laws ban­ning the prac­tice but, sadly, they are not al­ways well- en­forced. This is made worse be­cause the per­pe­tra­tors are usu­ally close fam­ily and rel­a­tives, who do not see this as a hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion ( which the UN has de­clared it to be). Rather, they see it as a lov­ing duty that is needed to help their child get bet­ter suit­ors and in­te­grate into so­ci­ety.

That’s where education comes in. Hiba works with young­sters in the UK, help­ing them be­come bet­ter in­formed about the pro­ce­dure, as well as pre­par­ing them for what to do in case a rel­a­tive is plan­ning one. Along the way, Hibo is also help­ing women in So­ma­lia, by work­ing with grass­roots vol­un­teers. She says she will not stop un­til the prac­tice is erad­i­cated for good.

“Your child is a gift from God,” she tells me, and it al­most sounds like a plea to par­ents. “You are en­trusted with this life. To me, chil­dren sig­nify life and it is your duty to help them and nur­ture them.

“I think, deep down, par­ents who have lived with the af­ter­math of FGM know that it is wrong to take their child’s right to a healthy body away,” she con­tin­ues. “Through education, I want them to think about what they are do­ing in­stead of go­ing by what so­ci­ety is do­ing. Don’t be fooled by peo­ple who say it is okay. It is not okay. It is a hor­rific way of con­trol­ling women, and peo­ple who en­force it are putting their community ahead of their chil­dren’s health. This should never be the case.”

Hibo also wants other sur­vivors to know that there is light at the end of the tun­nel. “If I can sur­vive this or­deal and go on to have seven chil­dren and talk about it… I hope it gives oth­ers the courage to face what­ever they are go­ing through,” she says.

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