‘I am convinced that the practice of FGM can be stopped in Somalia’

Women in Somalia need our support. As refugees, we appreciate the life we have in Ireland

Ifrah Ahmed, an activist and survivor of female genital mutilation, hopes to bring her anti-FGM campaign to Somalia, her home country. Here she shares her personal story of FGM. Video: Kathleen Harris

Tue, May 6, 2014, 01:00

I was born and brought up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. In 1996 I left the city with some members of my family in order to escape the conflict and chaos.

In 2006, when I was 17, I came to Dublin as an asylum seeker.

During the past eight years in Ireland, I managed to set up the Ifrah Foundation to campaign, in particular, against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is now illegal in Ireland, thanks to the politicians who supported me.

I always wanted to support my people and my country, and dreamed of going back to Somalia to make a valuable contribution to the society. My dreams came true when I met the president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, last September in Brussels during the New Deal conference about Somalia. I was able to interview the president about women’s rights issues, including FGM.

As a result of this, I decided to go to Somalia to see what I could do for my country. I landed at Mogadishu airport on March 21st for the first time since I left in 2006.

I always wanted to visit and to help my beloved country. During my eight years in Ireland I have gained valuable experience, knowledge and understanding about how a democratic country functions. A democracy, in turn, helps its citizens to realise their full potential, making a huge difference to their lives.

Before I left to go to Somalia, I spoke to The Irish Times about FGM.

I mentioned that I was going to see my grandmother and that I was going to ask her why she had me circumcised by her brother, a doctor. A professional must know the health problems associated with FGM and he should not have performed the operation, but he did.

I wanted to have a good chat about it with her and ask her why she did it.

Unfortunately, after the article was published in The Irish Times, it was reproduced in the Somalia media. I was scared so I left it a fortnight longer before going on my trip. I never thought it would be picked up by the Somali media.

My grandmother found out about the article and she asked me whether this was the reason I was coming to visit her, so I never got the chance to ask her the questions I wanted her to answer.

It was difficult to say anything to her. I had to keep it to myself.

Near the house where I was staying, there were small camps that I used to visit a lot, and where I talked to families and children. One day, I was playing with some of the children and I saw three girls who were jumping and dancing.

When I asked the girls why they were happy, I was told that they were to have their FGM operations within a couple of days.

As a campaigner against FGM, I was very surprised to see this. I spoke to a friend and said to him that I had to leave Somalia on Friday, which was the date scheduled for their operations, and I asked for his advice.

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