“Get your mitts off my muff.”
Nimco Ali was just 7 years old when she underwent the most severe form of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Now 32, the Somali-born activist has spent her adult life campaigning against the brutal practice, vowing to be the last woman in her family to be subjected to it.
“I knew it was bullshit then,” she said in a recent profile in the Anne Summers Review, but says like many other survivors, she kept silent about what had happened to her for nearly a decade and a half.
It wasn’t until Ali had graduated from her studies at the University of Bristol that she began to realise that her experience was not rare or unique.
She was working in child protection services in the UK and giving a talk to some young Somali students, when one asked about FGM, which triggered a conversation within the group.
“I was shocked, completely shocked, that twelve out of thirteen had been cut,” she said.
“Here was this population of girls I never knew existed.”
A video explaining the practice from UK organisation Daughter’s of Eve (post continues after):
The United Nations estimates that between 100 million and 140 million women and girls worldwide have been “cut”.
We often consider FGM to be a practice that occurs in other counties — certainly it is most prevalent in Africa and the Middle East — but it happens in Australia too.
As many as 83,000 women and girls in Australia may have had their genitals mutilated as part of cultural or other practices, according to advocacy group No FGM Australia.
While no official government data has been collected here, the group estimates that three girls a day are at risk of cutting in Australia, despite it being illegal in all states and territories.
It is also illegal to remove children from the county for the purpose of FGM, and all suspected cases must be reported.