Ifrah Ahmed continues fight against FGM in Somalia and worldwide
2018-02-01 17:04:00 -

By Chinedu Onyejelem


International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) takes place on 6 February.


The annual United Nations awareness day, first observed in 2003, is aimed at raising greater awareness about the need to eliminate FGM the world over.


This year, Somalian FGM survivor and founder of the Ifrah Foundation, Ifrah Ahmed, is continuing with her photo campaign involving high profile political and civil societies leaders. 


The ‘Zero sign to Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation’ campaign — which Ahmed runs between Ireland and Somalia — currently features former Irish President Mary Robinson, who appears in a photo with Ahmed during a meeting at European Conference in Brussels.


Ahmed told Metro Éireann that the campaign began in 2013 when she was at the European Commission, and now it is being used it to bring more attention to FGM in Somalia and around the world.


Coming to terms with her personal experience, Ahmed — who left Somalia at 17 as a result of that country’s civil war — played an active part alongside AkiDwA and other Irish organisations in lobbying for legislation to criminalise FGM in Ireland. 


In 2014, Ahmed was appointed as adviser on FGM to Somalia’s Minister of Women Affairs, and later the country’s prime minister made her the government’s gender adviser.


Now back in Ireland for the filming of A Girl from Mogadishu, a documentary on her life which began last October in Belgium and will wrap in Morocco later this month, Ahmed said she is unaware if FGM is still happening in Ireland.


“I can’t really say yes or no but I know that there is a case currently in court,” she told Metro Éireann. “The social workers and Garda are not providing information about the practice of FGM.” 


However, she said her foundation “could assist in eradicating it within the community if we can find out if it really exists in the country. We can raise awareness and assist people to end FGM if it exists [in Ireland].”


Ahmed said educating people was crucial in ending the practice. In the meantime, she urged the Government to make Ireland a global leader in the movement against FGM. 


“They can do that by focusing on FGM as one of their main programmes and promoting the need to end FGM through their embassies all over the world,” she added.


Returning to her work in Somalia, Ahmed believes things are also changing in her homeland. She remembers being accused of inciting people and using western sentiment against their culture during one of her fact-finding trips in 2013. 


“At one point I was told by women and religious leaders that I was brainwashed and that I should go back to western society, that I shouldn’t be there [in Somalia] because they believed that FGM is a culture … Some other people believed it’s a religious practice so people should not be speaking about it.“


More recently, Ahmed said she helped in organising a four-day training workshop on ending FGM in Somalia, which brought both public and private media workers together with different religious leaders in the town of Garowe, capital of Puntland state.


According to Ahmed, one of the several outcomes of the workshop was a decision by its participants to back a national conference on ending FGM in Somalia on 15 May this year.


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