Today, we are celebrating and fighting for women all over the world. Even though every fight for gender equality and women’s rights is interconnected with all the others, some issues are more well-known. FGM remains in the shadows of international attention, especially in the global north. Such is the case despite the fact that in Denmark alone, there are 7,910 FGM survivors (endfgm) and between 1,408 and 2,568 girls at risk (EIGE). Today we are casting a light on the fight against FGM.

That is why the Gender Equality team at UNYA Copenhagen is hosting an event on the 15th of March from 6 to 8 PM at the University of Copenhagen, CSS 35.01.06 (City Campus) with Somali-born British FGM activist Hibo Wardere and former UNYA volunteer Michaela Higgins Sørensen as speakers to break the silence around FGM in Denmark.

“Vagina does not exist in my country”

The issue is complex and so is the solution, but one thing remains clear: Freedom is worth fighting for because: “Human’s hurting should be everybody’s business”, as stated by FGM activist Hibo Wardere. She experienced FGM at just six years old back in Somalia and has made it her goal to do what she can to spread the word and stop the hurt, which is why she is the main speaker at the event, where she will tell her personal story. Whether you belong to the country, the culture, or the religion, whatever divides us these days, everyone should get involved and want to help, she says.

 “Vagina does not exist in my country!” Hibo’s statement, which might be difficult to understand at first, paints a clear picture of the constant taboo regarding the female body in the context of her country of origin, Somalia. And how can we solve anything if we cannot even talk about it?”

Hibo Wardere chose to do so anyway. Despite being looked at as a villain within her own community for speaking up against the oppression and assaults, she believes that the fight is more than worth it. Why? Because of her daughters. Being able to experience her daughters being free to do whatever they want with their lives is the greatest victory she could imagine. 

Everything revolves around having control over women

FGM is just one of many feministic agendas that are too often forgotten. Why is this happening? There is a clear misconception that FGM is a local issue within the 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is practiced, which is why it can seem like a fight that ought to be fought somewhere else. First, that is not the case. Second, every struggle regarding the security of women and women’s rights in general has its foundation in the same structures. Third, you can argue that the complexity of the issue increases with every new level of social bias.

To get more knowledge on the subject we have talked to Michaela Higgins Sørensen, one of the speakers at the UNYA event, who has written her thesis on FGM in the Danish context.

She points out that when a girl is exposed to genital mutilation, it is not just an isolated assault, it is a product of a patriarchal structure, inserted to control women: 

“For example, women undergo FGM because they need to be ‘clean’ (aka: virginal and loyal) for men because they need to depend on a man to have economic stability and to also be accepted in their communities to follow ‘the norm’.” 

FGM is therefore not just a local, cultural, or religious concern. An isolated FGM-related assault can easily be translated into the ongoing general battle for female independence: Access to healthcare, education, economic funds, and so much more. Everything is interrelated – so let’s talk about it.

The shadow of the feministic agenda

Today, on the 8th of March, we come together to cast a light over all the battles that we share, but also the ones that we do not. In that context, we should introduce the term “intersectionality”. It is a way of examining how different forms of oppression overlap and interact to create complex experiences of discrimination (Amnesty). In the case of intersectional feminism, the focus area is discrimination against women of color, women with a handicap, women who are a part of the LGBT+ community, immigrant women, etc. 

How we perceive the different feministic struggles has a real impact on how we approach them. Maybe that is part of the reason why FGM is rarely discussed in Denmark. 

“The main misconception that people have is that it is not a ‘Danish Problem’. (…) This is also tied into the attitudes around migration in Denmark, where migrants and people of other ethnicities are not seen as ‘Danish’ despite having lived here for decades and being citizens of Denmark”, says Michaela Sørensen. 

FGM is a Danish problem and intersectional perspectives are crucial for our understanding of the subject. Breaking the taboo is difficult, because how do you speak up when silence is expected? Let us break the silence.

Getting the full picture is nearly impossible from reading this article at around 4000 keystrokes. So, remember to sign up for the event on the 15th of March to support the ‘forgotten’ fight to end FGM and learn a little bit more about the world and the reality of it – a reality that is not that far away, we live right beside it.

From everyone at UNYA, we wish you a happy International Women’s Day!