Ten days ago I was devastated by the terrible news from Somalia of the death of 10 year old Deeqa Dahir Nuur from severe bleeding following female genital mutilation (FGM). In Somalia, which has one of the highest rates of FGM, 98% of girls and women have undergone the practice and are living with the lifelong consequences. Like Deeqa, some girls die and for too long their deaths have been kept secret and purposefully not attributed to FGM.
I am heartened that Deeqa’a death has been widely reported and condemned in Somalia and internationally, and that there has now been an official response from Somalia’s Attorney General who has announced the Government’s intention to proceed with an investigation and prosecution in this case. However, this is a bittersweet moment as yet again a girl has had to die. It is shameful that Deeqa and other girls have not been protected, their cries of pain not heard and their human rights not seen as important.
This is an important step forwards for Somalia and is the result of years of hard work by Somali activists who have tirelessly campaigned for an end to FGM in Somalia and justice for all those who have suffered so greatly. Anti-FGM activists have been subjected to hateful abuse and threats of violence, even death, against them and their families but they have persisted, found allies and nurtured a new youth movement against FGM.
I pay tribute to all who have been part of this struggle and, whilst there are too many to name here, I salute Nafisa Ogle, the young journalist who first reported Deeqa’s death and my friend and sister in this work Ifrah Ahmed who has been at the forefront in seeking change in Somalia, working with the Global Media Campaign to #EndFGM.
Earlier this year I attended the first Pan-African End FGM Youth Summit, hosted by The Girl Generation and I was proud to stand with young activists from Somalia and Somaliland, including Y-PEER Somalia, who were working together against FGM and all forms of child abuse. That we will now hopefully see justice for Deeqa is thanks to all of these activists, their work and their belief that Somalia can and will change for the better.
We need to make sure that this is a turning point for Somalia and as a survivor of FGM I will not stop in my work against the cruel abuse of our girls. I am pleased that government ministers and religious leaders are speaking out against FGM and this sends an important message that FGM will no longer be tolerated. Somalia's first ever prosecution for FGM will be one victory in a long campaign to end FGM. Now we must all hold those in leadership roles to account and make sure they deliver on the necessary actions. True justice for Deeqa will be the ending of FGM for all girls in Somalia and worldwide.