Unity is powerful. You are not alone.
There was a flicker of light—when I realized there are millions of us out there. I am a survivor and activist against FGC—female genital cutting. Telling my story has changed my life. It has been a healing process for me, knowing I can help someone.
When I was six years old I was forced to go through FGC. Every part of my female genitalia was literally cut off and discarded. The pain was great. I prayed to die that day. Words cannot describe the pain. You are engulfed in pain, physically, emotionally and psychologically. It lasts your whole life.
With Somalia torn apart by war, I fled to the United Kingdomat the age of 18 years. I married an amazing man and had three daughters and four boys, yet I continued to see myself through my trauma. Socially I became very reclusive. I got completely submerged in cooking and cleaning as my way of coping. For much of my life after FGC I hated myself.
When my youngest daughter started school I began to volunteer at her school. I was called into a meeting where the administrator invited a young girl and her parents, who were returning to East Africa. The young girl reminded me of myself as a girl: shy, timid, and skinny. I was very angry about what they might be planning to do with this young girl. I was studying level 3 of childcare at that time and I was asked by the assessor to write about an abuse I knew very well or experienced. That day after the meeting with the young girl, I decided to write about FGC. I was looking for stories on the internet about FGC, when my husband asked me what I was looking for. I told him I wanted to write about FGC. He closed the laptop and asked why are you looking for a story? Why can’t you write about yourself. I said no, but then I asked myself—why not?
That night I wrote about my own trauma; it was the first time ever I actually went back to that day. When I was six, I was told never to discuss it with anybody. It took me four decades to discuss FGC. My campaign, my work now, is not only about FGC it is about protecting children, empowering women, and protecting our future. I am never going to stop. Children’s wellbeing belongs to everybody, regardless of color, race, or religion. Children are universal; their wellbeing belongs to everybody in the world. What hurts a child, what hurts another human being—hurts you.
It’s a humanity issue. It is very important that we get men involved, they are the biggest missing part of this fight. We need to hear from them. We need to teach our boys. I say to men, get involved, make it your business, don’t be a bystander. We need to strive together.
My insight: trauma doesn’t define you, it’s how you see yourself that matters. The day I stopped seeing myself through my trauma was the day that changed my life. Today I am blessed. Talking about it, sharing it, is the most effective first step. You have the power to change.
I was moved to tears talking with Hibo and feeling her power: to heal, to change herself, to change the world. What do you think about her story? We would love to have you join the conversation. Please comment below. You never know who you might inspire or where it might lead.
For more information on Hibo Wardere please click here.
For more information of FGC/FGM please click here.
To read about more Gutsy Goddesses please click here.