(ERGO) – A local women’s group in central Somalia says it has seen a decrease in the number of girls being subjected to full female genital circumcision (FGM) following an awareness campaign.
The women’s association of Adado has been informing communities about the risks of FGM for 18 months, by visiting the villages and five IDP camps around the town talking to parents and the women who conduct the harmful practice.
Sahro Mohamed Ahmed, the association’s chairperson, told Radio Ergo that a survey they conducted 18 months ago, before they began their campaign, found that around 200 girls a month were being cut using the full form of FGM known as the Pharaonic method.
In a second survey conducted one year later, they found that the number of girls being cut using the Pharonic method had dropped significantly. In November 2020, they recorded 28 cases of Pharaonic circumcision out of a total of 278 circumcisions conducted. In December 2020, they recorded 22 Pharaonic cases out of 222 circumcisions.
However, the rest of the girls were still being circumcised although using the lesser method known as ‘sunna.’
Nafiso Abdullahi Jama is one of six women in the group taking part in the campaign.
“The awareness is needed so much. I know the pain of this practice because I am a victim,” Nafiso said. She described complications during the births of her children and constant pain during her monthly periods.
Maryan Farah Isse, a mother of four girls, was influenced by the campaigners and decided to circumcise her three younger daughters in 2020 using the ‘sunna’ method. She had witnessed the problems that full FGM caused for her first-born daughter.
“My eldest daughter fell sick immediately after FGM. I had to take her to hospital for medication. She was sick on her first menstrual period and had to miss school for days. It took her a long time to heal compared to the three girls whom I circumcised using the ‘sunna’ way,” Maryan said.
The women’s group has also been working to influence the circumcisers to drop the full FGM practice.
Falhado Abdullahi Mohamed has been circumcising girls for 10 years. She told Radio Ergo’s local reporter that she had stopped the practice of full FGM after hearing from the group.
“Even the women who bring girls to me and say I want it, I tell them it’s not good. I stopped the practice after I was told it was against Sharia,” said Falhado. “Now I do only the ‘sunna’ circumcision for girls.”
Female genital mutilation has no basis in Islamic religion, although Somalis have long practised it.
According to the UN’s agency on reproductive and maternal health, UNFPA, FGM is almost universally practised in Somalia and many religious and community leaders justify it as a religious necessity. Families also view cutting as a way of protecting their daughter’s chastity and as a prerequisite for marriage.
Eliminating FGM is a key target under goal five of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. UN and other campaigners insist on zero tolerance for FGM. The practice of an alternative ‘sunna’ form of circumcision remains controversial and a grey area amongst campaigners.