Ubah Ali, Activist

Hargeisa, Somaliland

“At the age of six, I went through female genital mutilation (aka female circumcision), and my life has changed ever since. Let me take a step back and tell you my story. I was born and raised in Somaliland in East Africa, an unrecognized country that broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991. Somaliland does not get much support from the international community, which has led to a weak education system and healthcare system and many other social problems. Most Somali families worry about their next meal, not their future. None of my parents graduated from primary school. Growing up in a community where cultural beliefs are strict, finding my talents and identity was very hard. I was taught that going to school was not essential and that I would get married and rely solely on my husband for financial support so did not need to waste my family's money. But my mother helped and motivated me to continue my education. I ended up doing well in school and I’m currently studying political science at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. My experience of going through female genital mutilation (FGM) and its long-lasting effects that I still struggle with today compelled me to start an initiative to protect the next generation of Somali girls from going through the same experience. Almost all Somali women (98%) go through FGM. Eradicating this practice has been challenging because Somalis associate FGM with Sharia Law (Islamic law), however, nowhere in the Quran is girls’ circumcision mentioned. In 2018, with the help of my friends, I co-founded an organization called Solace for Somaliland Girls, with the aim of eradicating all forms of FGM in the Somali community through education and empowerment. Being a MasterCard Fellow and having been one of the scholars who won the 2018-2019 Resolution Project, I received some funds that went towards the awareness campaigns and workshops about FGM’s effects held by Solace, our organization. As a youth-led movement, we enlisted the help of Somali youth creating anti-FGM clubs in high schools. We believe that making youth, the country’s future leaders, part of the anti-FGM movement will fundamentally shield the next generation of Somali girls from FGM. Last year, we launched the first anti-FGM club in Somaliland. Today, the club has 65 student members. Through Solace, they are learning about the health consequences of FGM and how they can contribute to the fight against FGM. The road ahead is not easy but I’m going to do everything in my power to protect the future generation of Somali girls from FGM.” - Ubah Ali, Activist


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