Attended talk by the amazing Hibo Wardere in a packed Waltham Forest Council Chamber on Tuesday. Hibo spoke in graphic detail about the secrecy surrounding this practice and indeed everything to do with sex, marriage and giving birth in her community in Somalia. All she knew about FGM was that girls had a big party and new clothes. Then when the procedure took place, and the excruciating pain ensued, and her mother who was in the room did nothing to help her she felt that her life was over. “My mother was dead to me then”. Hibo continued to suffer all the pain and infections caused by this barbaric practice throughout her girlhood. Next thing on the agenda was marriage. Again, all she knew was that a big fuss was made, new clothes appeared and it seemed to be a joyous event. But the young Hibo noticed that lots of newly married women “disappeared” for some weeks after their weddings. What was happening? Eventually she persuaded a friend who was about to be married to tell her “If you disappear, come back and tell me where you have been”. The friend did disappear, and when she returned explained that she had been in the hospital. Her wedding night was like being “attacked with a rolling pin being inserted into you” and caused a great deal of damage and bleeding. Eventually Hibo started to understand what sex and marriage meant. At age 18, because of the war, Hibo came to the UK, alone and speaking no English. Now she is a teaching assistant in a primary school, and making it her life’s work to campaign against FGM. “How can this be anything to do with religion” she asked. “God made us like this. Why should people damage young girls so severely that they can never have any sexual pleasure, that they suffer from a lifetime of pain and infections, that nearly all Somalian women have to give birth via caesarian?”
Hibo is worried that although in the UK people are starting to become aware of this practice and to notice the signs (taking young girls “on holiday” etc) the reaction from the communities might be to start cutting girls when they are babies, so that teachers and others dont “interfere”. Hibo made it perfectly clear that the white liberal response that “it is part of their culture” is completely invalid. Even if it is part of the culture it is wrong. It is a form of violence against women and girls that we must all oppose.