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