Zero tolerance to FGM - how youth are making a difference

Four young Djiboutian girls clad in their traditional attire pose for a photo.

The fight against FGM in Djibouti has existed for many years. The commitment of the authorities and civil society means that today the rate of girls aged 5-9 who endure excision is 37.7% (PAPFAM 2012). A law prohibiting the practice of female genital mutilation also exists but its application remains difficult, particularly in rural areas. As young people we are in front of a practice deeply rooted in mentalities for generations, and this is where community involvement becomes crucial.

It’s not our mothers fight only…

Many say that the battle against female genital mutilation is a matter of women and sometimes of some religious leaders, the Sheikhs. Indeed, they are doing an important job, but what is less known is that there are young people today who are committed to ending FGM.

As a young Djiboutian from Djibouti city in Boulous I have participated in campaigns that seek to end FGM. I have raised awareness on the dangers of the practice to the life of a young girl and how it robs self-esteem.  I am actively involved in the fight against FGM through a strong presence within the community management committee I live in.

In 2018, I was already a leader of a local youth association, at the age of 21, and I was fully involved in activities for the benefit of my community. More young people are getting involved, and attitudes, beliefs are changing, and young people in Djibouti are increasingly committed to working for a better future for themselves and for their society.

I have participated in conferences where I have heard testimonies of young people and the vital role they are playing in putting an end to the practice and all I can say is that I have been inspired. The contributions from other young people clearly spell out that young people want change, and that younger girls must be able to say proudly that they have not been cut and never feel ashamed.

Since young people are predominantly affected, they can help end this practice by engaging in aggressive awareness campaigns in rural or semi-nomadic communities. In rural areas cultural beliefs and societal pressure to conform to existing traditional practices force parents to let their girl children go through this excruciatingly painful and medically unnecessary procedure.

To end FGM in Djibouti, young people have been engaging with those who can sway communities. Young people are engaging religious leaders to speak out against FGM. Djibouti is made up of highly developed and diversified religious groups and much religious leaders are given enormous respect and weight in Djiboutian society. Based on the respect they carry, it is slowly becoming easier for religious leaders to convince parents and community leaders to stop the practice of FGM.

Additionally, we are going directly into schools and talk to students, especially girls, about the dangers of FGM. Since it is girls who are affected, our visits are led by young women, and survivors of FGM who are open to sharing their personal experience.

For young pople to end FGM in Djibouti in one generation, they need the government's support and strong political commitment to enact strict penalties for those who still practice FGM. Government at all levels must ensure healthy lives and wellbeing for its citizens. Young people can lead the way in tackling development, gender, and health issues, and they can lead the way to ending the practice of FGM. We just need to be given the chance

“We want to stress the fact that youth cannot and will not be ignored. We may be young, but we have experienced female genital mutilation. We know how it feels. We understand it. Ending it is a battle we can win. It can end with us. We are ready for action.”
Aissata Camara

Sirad Yacin  is an aspiring entrepreneur has had the opportunity to pitch her ideas at various seed funding platforms. She is keen on training other young people to acquire employability skills, to start their small businesses, and be economically independent.