Thu, Jan 24, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Invasive procedure

A 17-year-old asylum seeker tells how a Somali supermodel inspired her to speak out against the female genital mutilation she was subjected to as a child

By Diane Taylor  /  The Guardian, London

In the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service, a government department responsible for public prosecutions, has announced plans to crack down on those who compel young girls to undergo FGM. It has been a criminal offence for 30 years but there has never been a successful prosecution. About 24,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are thought to be at risk of FGM. Another 66,000 have already suffered it.

Speaking out

Most do not want to speak about such a personal event. Yet Khadija, while researching inspirational Somalis for a school assignment, came across the supermodel Waris Dirie, who has tirelessly campaigned against FGM and has written an international bestseller about her own experience of this practice. The book was made into a film, called Desert Flower. “Waris Dirie inspired me to speak up at my school against FGM. My dream would be to meet her,” she says.

One of Khadija’s GCSE teachers is hugely impressed by her decision to raise awareness about FGM. “She hasn’t seen her parents for years — she was kidnapped by a terrorist group in Somalia. She did a full set of GCSEs after just two years in the British education system and she lives with the worry that she might be detained and deported at any point. What she’s doing is phenomenal,” he says.

Although Khadija doesn’t know what has happened to her parents, she hopes they will approve of her stance. “My father often used to say, ‘When you have an education you carry the whole world in your hands,’” she says. “If I was still in Somalia

I wouldn’t even think of speaking up about these things because my life would be at risk. But now that I’m in a free country, where people can be open, I want to try to help girls who could lose their lives from FGM. Girls who don’t have a choice about whether or not they are cut.”

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