The campaign continues. From East Turkestan, we now fly all the way to Somaliland, where Ubah Ali, a courageous activist, decided to challenge one of the worst human rights violations facing women in her country.
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Who is Ubah Ali?
Ubah Ali is from Somaliland. She studies politics at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Ubah became a victim of female genital mutilation at the age of six.
Ubah is working to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) in Somaliland. She is passionate about helping the most vulnerable categories of the population, especially women. She is the co-founder of an organization called Solace for Somaliland Girls Foundation, which aims to eradicate all forms of FGM across Somaliland through education and awareness. Ubah is convinced FGM is not about religion. This is a cultural phenomenon. This is why she is working with religious figures and doctors to help prevent circumcision. She regularly leads workshops in three different districts in Somaliland. If it ends up being successful, her plan is to expand her project to other parts of Somaliland.
Somaliland is a de facto State that used to be a part of Somalia until 1991. Ubah deplores that people are frightened of visiting Somaliland. She considers that even if the economy is weak now, people from Somaliland are building strong foundations for their new country.
How big is the FGM issue in Somaliland?
FGM has long been practiced in Somaliland, as in 30 other countries with representative data on prevalence, at least (UNICEF, February 2018). It is something every girl is supposed to go through to be valued and able to honor her family through marriage, which depends on whether women have been circumcised or not. According to Ubah, the aim of FGM is for society to be able to have control over women’s sexual lives. The older generation is very strict about FGM. They consider refusing it is attacking the religion. Girls are not allowed to talk about it, nor are they allowed to raise their voices in general.
For Ubah, it is difficult for women today to challenge the cultural norms surrounding FGM, as a woman is considered to be half a man.
FGM is also related to the economy: a lot of women are able to make a living thanks to circumcision. Ending FGM is, therefore, the abolition of a source of income.
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What motivated Ubah to become an activist?
Alongside her three sisters, Ubah is a victim of FGM, performed on her when she was six. She knows the pain that many girls go through. Once, when she asked her mother why she did it to her four daughters, her mother replied that if she had known the effects of FGM at that time, she wouldn’t have done it in the first place. This is why education is important to Ubah. To eradicate circumcision, raising awareness is important.
Watch Ubah’s interview!
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