Mogadishu ( PPM ) —  During 1980s Somalia launched a campaign against female genital mutilation. Health hazards of the heinous practice was becoming clear due to medical advances. The practice of FGM dates back  to Pharaonic Egypt, one reason why Somalis call it Gudniinka Fircooniga ( Pharaonic  Circumcision ).  It was not enough to enlist the help of religious leaders and educationists. The campaign required significant involvement of women in the spread of the message against FGM. 

Raqiya Haji Duale Abdalla, a former Deputy Minister of Health Minister and  co-author of a 1973 book on Somali mothers, wrote Sisters in Affliction: Circumcision & Infibulation of Women in Africa, a book that gave Somalia the distinction of being the first country in Africa to ditch insouciance  about pain and long-term reproductive health problems inflicted on women in many African countries.  

UNICEF commissioned a Somali translation of the book. The late Dr Mohamed Hamud Sheikh translated Raaqiya’s book into Somalia ( Walaasha Dhibaataysan). Cultural activities formed an important part of the campaign. Songs by Iftin, the Ministry of Education troupe, helped raise citizens’ understanding about a practice that had been promoted as an element of female chastity.

Raqiya’s book galvanized anti-FGM campaigners

In present-day Somalia female genital mutilation is a less discussed topic. There is not a solid evidence that the FGM is more widely practised in Somalia now than before 1991. There is a risk that lack of government attention to FGM can desensitise people to its health hazards.

Authorities pay scant attention to health awareness about FGM in Somalia. The fight against FGM in a country such as Somalia should not be confined to annual celebration of Women’s Day. A robust health policy towards fighting FGM and enforcing existing laws against it can  become a bulwark against it. Somalia once was a country known for its anti-FGM campaigns. It is time to revive the fight against FGM in Somalia.

© Puntland Post Monthly, 2020

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