#AJOPINION: ‘FGM kills girls, women. Even if we survive it’

We speak to Hibo Wardere, FGM survivor and anti-FGM campaigner, to hear her story.

In the fifth episode of #AJOPINION, Hibo Wardere, a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM) and an anti-FGM campaigner, relays her story.

“It’s a pain that’s there for life. It’s a pain that is consuming,” she told Al Jazeera.

“It’s a pain that our communities think is OK to expose to girls. It’s death that we accept that comes with FGM. It’s the normalisation of death. It’s time we said no.”  

Hibo Wardere was born in Somalia but moved to the UK as a refugee fleeing the Somali Civil War when she was just a teenager in 1989. 

At the age of six, she was the victim of FGM. Every day for the next 10 years, she sought answers from her family members but was always denied a response.

When she was 16, a relative finally promised to tell her everything about what happened after her wedding night, leaving her horrified by the revelations. 

After arriving in London, Wardere sought treatment for her wounds but received little support from the National Health Service (NHS). 

Doctors failed to ask what had happened to her and only rarely mentioned FGM on her medical files, even when she gave birth to her children.

Years later, as she was studying to become a teaching assistant, she opened up about her story in a homework essay. 

The head of staff read her work and asked her to deliver a speech to 120 teachers, some of whom realised that their students might have experienced the same trauma. 

She quickly went on to raise awareness in other schools and has worked as a mediator and FGM educator since, helping young students escape FGM. 

She also delivers awareness-raising sessions to doctors and the police to assist in their understanding of FGM.

Her testimonies have appeared in numerous publications including the BBC, the Guardian and the Telegraph.

Wardere’s memoir, Cut, was published in 2016.

According to data compiled by the World Health Organization, an estimated 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in the countries where the practice is concentrated. 

About 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM every year.

This episode of #AJOPINION was produced by Aisyah Shah Idil and edited by Al Jazeera NewsFeed’s Seena Khalil.