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The Maiden Factor Blog

Maiden is a Global Ambassador for the Empowerment of Girls through Education

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation - by Hibo Wardere

Hi, my name is Hibo Wardere, I come from Somalia I was born and bred in Somalia, I came to the UK when I was 18 years old. In Somalia there is one of the worst forms of child abuse that continues there, and it's called female genital mutilation as the well-known name for it, but in my country, it's known as female genital circumcision or cutting.

This is something that our community is extremely proud of because it's the part of the heritage, tradition, culture, whatever you want to call it but it's also an important thing to do to the girls so that you keep your girls clean, which is so they stay virgin, they don't have sexual urges, they are completely utterly shutting down your sexual feelings that's what they're doing.

I was circumcised when I was six years old, I come from the line where all the females in my family have been cut, including my mother, my grandmother and everybody. I didn't know what cutting was until I experienced it and what that was, and it is one of the most horrific things for a child to go through.

So how do you reconcile with what happened to you and then reconcile with your family! That was the question for me, as a 6-year-old who trusted and loved everybody in the family. When that happened, that trust was gone, and I was utterly alone person and in a certain way there was full of adults who were showing me love but I didn't feel love, I felt petrified! Every time they huddled up, I thought something was going to happen, they are planning on doing something else evil.

What happened to me that morning in that hut has changed my life and what happened was the beginning of a trauma in that hut, My mum led me there, I got held down by people that I don't know, my auntie was helping them and they opened up my legs and literally removed my genitals piece by piece. I don't have clitoris and I don't have labia; they removed all those things, and they just leave you with tiny a hole. On top of that they stitch you up so that you don't have sex.

With a tiny hole, like the tip of a matchstick, that hole is where you are supposed to urinate, have your menstruation, consummate marriage and then have children as well. So, I carried a lot, I carried a lot of pain. I was suffering a lot physically; urinating was a problem, infections were constant. My period, I called it death every month, I was waiting to die, that's how horrific it was.

I remember every month my mother had to end up taking me to a hospital and every month I had injections. I didn't know what they were for, but I did hear one doctor pleading with my mother, telling her ‘Can we just open, just a tiny bit’ and my mother saying ‘no, because if you open her, no one is going to marry her. So that means even if she dies, it is going to be God's will she passed away’. For me it was a recognition that things are not the way they are supposed to be.

The love, everything I had was taken, with one slice, one slice of my genitalia everything was wiped out the love, the trust, the sanctuary, everything I felt was taken away that day and I grew up being a petrified little girl, I grew up not trusting anyone, I grew up with having million questions to myself and answering for myself because nobody was there to answer. I grew up with lots of questions full of questions on why? why would you do this to me, why did I have to go through so much pain to become a woman? why did you give me a deception party that everybody was telling me I'm going to be a woman and to become a woman, why is it associated with so much pain! I did not understand that.

It took me years and years of going through so many questions and so many thoughts trying to understand what happened. It wasn't an easy thing to do trying to understand what happened to me itself. It felt like a lifetime journey, it still is.

I am 53 and there are still things that I don't I haven't reconciled with. I have forgiven my mother, I have, but it took me to become pregnant to forgive my mother. I still have questions, if she was alive today, I would have questions.

I have kids and there is no way I can look at my daughters and think, it's OK for me to do what was done to me and think that it's OK for you to go through life with pain and all kind of thing. it's OK for you to experience what I experienced. I couldn't do that, that's a betrayal on my part. A child is a gift given to you by a God not everybody can have a child and that gift is there for you to respect, to love, to nurture and to protect even if it's to give up your life for. I couldn't see myself doing that.

For me that morning in that horror hut, everything changed, life as I had known it changed. For myself, going to the toilet after you were immediately cut was the worst part of it and your urine doesn't come out the way it's supposed to come out, it's just horrific and it's cruel. You sit on that toilet, and you try to pee, but it doesn't, it just comes out as droplets and you're thinking why, why did they changed me this way, what was the point of it, I'm suffering and I'm pretty much sure if I'm suffering, million others suffer. Why do you continue with this nightmare, what makes you feel it's OK to continue with this nightmare. Not forgetting about you having to consummate your marriage, it's going to be horrific when you have a child, it's horrific.

I was lucky enough to give birth in the UK. Imagine the women who are not in this place and they're in the places where there's no help the maternal death rate is massive, the damage done during birth is massive and women still continue to be subjected to Female Genital Mutilation today.

As we speak 11,000 girls per day are cut, over 200 million women and girls have been cut globally, in the UK (through the pregnancy route) we have 174,000 women and girls already logged, imagine the real numbers in the UK.

This is a nightmare that I live with, it's a trauma that I live with, it's part of my life. You don't heal from this trauma, you just learn how to cope with it and for me coping with it is about using what happened to me to create change, to educate, to raise awareness, to make people understand even my own community to understand what you do every day to the girls, is you disrupting , destroying and causing death.

I might be hated for that, I might be seen as somebody who is against the community, I might be seen as somebody who is westernized. So be it a price to pay and I'm willing to pay for that price to save women and girls. I'm willing to pay that price.

For me the 6-year-old me drives me, I cannot stop thinking about myself and how vulnerable a little girl I was, how much I screamed, how much I begged, how much I was denied that help that I was asking for. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about myself and grieve for that 6-year-old me. I do and it's extremely hard not to grieve because no amount of therapy you get will help you forget that. It's always there.

Trauma is part of life. Trauma, I have accepted because I can't get rid of it, so I have to accept it and to accept it comes with the tiny bit of peace on 6th of February international zero tolerance day for FGM. It is an amazing day for globally raising awareness on FGM, for me every single day is that day, every single day is that day when I go to schools, teach the teachers and students, when I stand in front of the most senior judges talking about this, whether I am raising awareness in every single part of the UK, every university, For me, every day is a zero tolerance day.

On the 6th of February 2022 my dream of having my own charity came closer to becoming reality. Myself, kirsty Lowe and Faiza Mughal (Co-Founders ENM) signed our constitution for our organisation Educate, Not Mutilate.

A year on we have educated over 6500 health professionals, teachers, students, midwifery students and other sectors. The number of requests for our workshops to be delivered is so much in demand, which shows how vital and important our services are.

In May 2022 ENM was very fortunate and grateful to receive a sum of £8800 from The National Lottery Fund to continue with our work. Although it is a considerable amount to work with, due to the high demands, we are coming to the end of our funding pot.

We have set up a JustGiving page to raise an equivalent amount to allow us to continue with our much-needed workshops. Donate Here

I'm very loved I'm a very loved human being, I have amazing friends, sisters, family who are constantly with me and who are constantly telling me what I'm doing who are constantly showering me with love and I'm so grateful for that.

Thank you to The Maiden Factor for the help, for asking me to do this article and for making me part of you. You stand for empowerment of girls through education around the world and I'm so grateful you have done so much in terms of supporting causes that are to end Female Genital Mutilation. This is a global effort and global effort means all of us coming together.

The effects of FGM disrupt the lives of innocent girls in many ways, one being their education. Once a girl has been subjected to this practice, the pain, the constants infections and the trauma often affects their ability to attend school. A large majority of the girls are married off and any dream of education is over.

Abuses that are happening to women and girls does not have race or religion attached to it, it's just cruel violence against women and girls. As we unite and stand together, we will see this thing end, as we fight on to preserve womanhood to preserve our rights to fight for our rights we will prosper because we will always fight in our heart for the future generation and generation today thank you very much.