activists anti-FGM black history

Nimko Ali

Nimko Ali is a Somali social activist. She is the co-founder and Director of the Daughters of Eve non-profit organisation which campaigns for greater awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM) and works to support young women and girls. She is also a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party.

Ali was born in Somalia, at the age of four, her family moved to Manchester, England. When she was 7, she flew with her family to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa where she underwent FGM. No one would talk to her about what had happened to her, when she asked her teacher she was told “this is what happens to girls like you” or “we don’t want to interfere in your culture.”  In Somalia, 98 percent of girls and women undergo some form of FGM and a study by City University London found that between 1996 to 2010, about 144,000 girls in England and Wales were born to mothers from countries practicing FGM, meaning many of these girls may be at risk. Years later, Ali ended up being rushed to hospital with kidney failure and having reconstructive surgery as a result of FGM.

In 2006, Ali visited a secondary school in the UK and found that 13 of 14 of the girls she met had undergone FGM. She was horrified, and the experience led to her beginning to work in child protection so that she could work towards using a combination of education and legislation banning FGM to solve the problem. In 2010, Ali and psychotherapist Leyla Hussein founded Daughters of Eve to raise awareness of FGM in the UK. The organisation aims to “support, advise, advocate and empower young people form FGM practicing and be their unedited voice . While working to end all gender-based violence practically FGM in one generation and gain equality for young people.”

In 2012, Ali spoke out about her own experiences with FGM for the first time, despite the fact that she was faced with threats and abuse from those who felt she should stay silent on the issue. She became “the face of the anti-FGM movement and was forced take police advice just to keep herself safe. In one instance, Ali was hit by a car in East Africa just for speaking out about FGM as it was felt that she was “dishonouring [her] community, family and even [her]self”

In June 2013, the NSPCC joined the cause and set up a free 24-hour FGM helpline which helped support Ali’s message that FGM is a form of child abuse. Later that year, following an in-depth Freedom of Information (FOI) project by journalist Martin Bentham on the prevalence of FGM in the NHS, Ali and Hussein were invited to meet with Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and Public Health Minister Jane Ellison to discuss the issue. The article also led to Ali losing contact with some of her family, who disagreed with her speaking out and an increase in threats to her life from men.

Ali and Hussein have managed to bring FGM into the spotlight and break the taboo surrounding it in the UK. In 2014, following their successful e-petition calling for a stop to FGM, the Girl Summit 2014 hosted by the UK government and UNICEF announced new action and funding to protect those at risk from FGM and forced marriage in a generation. That same year, Ali and Hussein were named as two of Britain’s most influential women in the BBC Woman’s hour power list.

In 2015, Ali became a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party, which campaigns for gender equality to the benefit of all. Their mission statement opens with “Equality for women isn’t a women’s issue. When women fulfill their potential, everyone benefits. Equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workforce that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself”. Ali now serves as a Network Coordinator for the End FGM/C Social Change Campaign which is sponsored by the UK government.

Click here for more information on Daughters of Eve.

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