Happy Birthday to Me!

A new blog by Dr Leyla Hussein OBE

It’s my birthday today and I will be spending it in airports and on planes as I travel from London to the USA for the Human Rights Forum at Augsburg University. Maybe not the most celebratory way to spend the day, and I hate being away from my family on my birthday, but it goes with the territory when you are an activist. For me, birthdays are a time to celebrate but they are also a time to reflect. My travelling birthday today will certainly give me time away from phone calls and social media to think about life.

This is my 39th birthday and I have now had seven birthdays before I experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) and thirty-two after the day that forever changed my life. As a survivor of FGM I think about it every day and even on my birthday I can’t help thinking about the impact it has had on me, my family and so many girls across world. I especially think of all the girls for whom FGM was the day they died and meant they would never have another birthday. It is a heart-breaking stain on all humanity that we cannot protect our young girls from this terrible harm.

FGM will always be part of my life but I do not let it define me. As I say in my talks, I am living proof that FGM doesn’t work. It was done to take away my voice and to control me but instead it has led to me becoming the outspoken activist you see today. I choose what I do and how I live my life, and I'm doing very well. I have a wonderful family, my amazing daughter, great friends and colleagues and my life is filled with love and laughter. I also love my work as a psychotherapist and as an activist. Every day I get opportunities to help someone else, to protect a girl at risk and to make the world a better and safer place. I have been given an incredible opportunity and I am determined to make each day count.

With each birthday I feel stronger and more determined that we will end FGM. Working with young activists in Africa has been life-changing for me and in their passion and commitment I see great hope for our future. This was one of the reasons for creating Magool Foundation so that we can support the amazing activists who are leading the fight against FGM in their families and local communities as well as taking their messages to national and international leaders. Change is coming and you can be part of the change too.

The best possible birthday present for me is not an expensive gift, instead it is everyone doing one small thing to help us end FGM. If you can please donate to Magool so we can help more girls and women or maybe you can share this blog and help raise awareness. Lots of us together can make a huge difference by doing small things.

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