Hawa Ahmed Youssouf, a Heroine

The Minister for Advancement of Women, Family Welfare and Social Affairs in Djibouti, Hawa Ahmed Youssouf is leading a campaign against her society which continues to practice female genital mutilation(FGM) – the surgical removal of the clitoris, so that girls cannot enjoy sexual relations.

The numbers are staggering. Up to 90 percent of Djiboutian girls are subjected to FGM at the age of seven or eight, as is the norm in much of northern and western Africa. It is also practised among emigrant communities residing in Europe and America. Clandestine operations, often performed in filthy conditions, subject the girls to a horrifying ordeal. Sometimes extreme and long-lasting pain and frequently, death through loss of blood.

Hawa Ahmed Youssouf has decided to speak out against the practice, bringing up the issue with the UNO and at international conferences on women’s rights. She points out that while FGM is illegal under the country’s law, 73 percent of the population is illiterate and bear more respect for local lore than national law. However, with a legal framework in place and continued pressure by national structures and NGOs, Hawa Youssouf intends to fight for women’s and children’s rights in her country. Setting a shining example for others to follow abroad.

Those who confuse FGM with Islamic rites are wrong, since FGM is a tradition which pre-dates Islam and there is nothing in Islam which refers to this practice as a specific religious duty.


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