A girl participates in a GECPD workshop on FGM holds a sign in Somali that says: “Support Girls who have been subjected to FGM”
As in most countries around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the suffering of women and girls in Somalia. In the words of Somali activist Hawa Aden Mohamed, “We have witnessed a rise in instances of violence against women and girls especially rape and intimate partner violence. Female genital mutilation (FGM) has also been on the rise as families moved from urban centers because of COVID to rural areas where FGM is most practiced. With the early closing of schools families have had much more time to perform FGM and in some cases child marriage.”
Through the pandemic the staff of Galkayo Center, founded by Hawa Aden Mohamed, have worked endlessly to sensitize their communities, raising awareness about the harms of FGM and child marriage.
In the recent surge of FGM cases during COVID they noted a disturbing trend of FGM being gradually medicalized. “In one 24-hour period,” Hawa explained,”we noted that 1/3rd of the FGM cases were performed in a public medical center by qualified health personnel. To us this is worrying as it may send the wrong signal that the practice is okay as long as it is done by a medical officer. Consequently part of our anti-FGM awareness and sensitization has been to warn health personnel against performing the harmful practice.”
Youth participants in a sensitization workshop organized by GECPD commit to fight FGM
The Galkayo Center is hoping to gather empirical data to show the extent to which medicalization has spread. Such data will significantly bolster their advocacy work with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women Development & Family Affairs. Hawa is working to mobilize resources to strengthen this advocacy to hold health workers accountable if they perform FGM. Lack of a proper legislative and policy framework to end FGM, and the fact that this practice is so strongly embedded in Somali culture, makes “saving girls from the cut” challenging, but Hawa is determined to end FGM in her lifetime, having watched her own sister die from FGM at a young age.
Please help Hawa and the Galkayo Center in their campaign to stop medical professionals from performing FGM in Somalia, threatening the health of young girls. Your contribution will save lives.