Interview of Doctor Deqo Adan, keynote speaker of the conference “Fighting FGM in Somalia”, IDE, Friday March 6th, 2009
Doctor Deqo Adan, you are a specialized physician who benefits of the experience of both the Somali culture and the Western culture. You spend part of your time in Somalia, where you have been fighting female genital mutilation (FGM) for many years. On March 8th, we are celebrating World Woman’s Day. What would you say to the world’s women in relation to your fight for women’s health?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about women in Somalia and about the women in general in the world. Actually my mother 1) is the one who has been fighting more than 30 years against FGM. We have been supporting her. In Somalia it is a practice widely expanded : in every corner of the country this tradition has to be done.
I will say to the women of the world to empower and help any woman in Africa who is practicing to stop and to stand for the right. To tell them we do not want to do anything wrong anymore. It is a long fight, but there is much hope in what you have started here in Switzerland : working with the women and the countries concerned, and advocating against FGM. This is a really good start. We are supporting it : because it is good to know the rest of the world stands by us.
Tell us about your experience in Somalia?
Here in the Western world you are fighting against FGM, but in Somalia, we are facing it every single day and experiencing the bad side-effects. In our hospital, starting from the day they do genital mutilation, we receive the young girl who is bleeding, because they cut “wrong” (they do not know what they do). We are receiving 5-6 year olds anemic due to this bleeding, infected with the material used : this means in many cases septicemy. We cannot do anything. On the other hand, when they have grown up and got married, and get sexual intercourse, again we are facing the problem, in the form of pain, bleeding and everything : they are coming to us again. The next step is when they are having children. So we are going through with all the steps of their life. Sixty percent of our amount of work is related to FGM : infection, bleeding, trauma. It is very very difficult for us to do a simple gynaecology check-up, because she is having a pain, you cannot examine properly neither do what you are supposed to do. That is what we are facing every single day. We try to advocate : “Please don’t do it!” It takes a while, but people are starting to understand more and more.
This concerns every women in her productive age : every woman in Somalia has six to seven children. Can you imagine : every time after the delivery they go through the practice again, only a small space is left. Sometimes the woman’s anatomy is destroyed during delivery : we have to do plastic surgery to get her normal life back. This is the plight of a huge number of women we deal with every day.
Today our Institute has invited you as a keynote speaker to address an audience of health professionals, children’s rights advocates, and representatives of migrant communities. How do you appreciate the impact of the programmes fighting FGM in Switzerland (more widely in Europe) in your own country Somalia?
Again I would like to thank you for inviting us to talk, and first of all for being on our side. It is a big thing to know there are colleague Doctors, human rights activists, children’s rights activists out there. In Somalia, we say “One finger cannot clean the face. Five fingers together, a whole hand, are needed to do something”. It is good to have a support and people who understand what we are doing. I am representing my mother who has worked with our support for fifteen years, but before that she was by herself. And I tell you : what you are doing here is so appreciated, the work you are doing is great, it is a good start. And I hope it will get greater and greater, because it saves a lot of women’s lives.
1) Dr Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe, a Somalian figure in the fight against FGM, elected Women of the Year 2007 by Hiiraan Online
UNIFEM : Women and Men United to End Violence against Women and Girls
UNICEF : "Girl Power" Reception
UNICEF : Statement by Executive director Ann M. Veneman
Fighting MGF : Page on www.childsrights.org
Any comment you may have would be welcome firstname.lastname@example.org.