When Nimco Ali was 7, she thought her family was going on vacation. They flew from their hometown in Manchester, England, to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
Ali doesn’t remember the exact location. But she clearly remembers what happened there.
The young girl found herself in a dingy room, with a woman dressed in all black, standing over her. She didn’t know what was going on at the time. But she fell asleep. And when Ali woke up, she was confused.
The woman had mutilated her genitals.
Ali is British to the core: She was raised in Britain and went to British schools. But her family is from Somalia — where 98 percent of girls and women have a part of their genitals cut, mutilated or completely removed.
n some places, the practice is still thought of as a rite of passage for women. But health leaders around the world are working to end the abusive practice. Now Ali, 30, is one of several activists speaking out against the tradition. She’s also the cofounder of Daughters of Eve, a nonprofit that provides support for women living with genital mutilation and protects young girls at risk.
Even in the U.K., Ali’s experience isn’t uncommon. A study out of City University Londonestimates that from 1996 to 2010, there were about 144,000 girls in England and Wales, who were born to mothers from countries practicing genital mutilation. Many of these girls may be at risk.
That’s why the British government has launched a new health care program to help survivors. Prime Minister David Cameron has also proposed new laws that mean parents could be prosecuted if their daughters are mutilated.