According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 200 million women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), with an additional 3 million girls still at risk of receiving the procedure every year. A common cultural practice across diverse regions of Africa, as well as Asia and the Middle East, FGM is categorized as the damaging or removal of girls’ genital organs for non-medical reasons — a tradition believed to safeguard premarital virginity and promote modesty that can result in devastating complications. Though it’s been labeled as a human rights violation by the WHO, FGM is much more insidiously widespread than most of us, particularly in the West, realize.
Nimco Ali, a 35-year-old activist and co-founder of the non-profit Daughters of Eve, is fighting to eradicate the practice, and to break FGM’s cycles of silence, one girl at a time. A survivor who immigrated to Britain from Somalia as a small child, Ali was cut when she was just 7 and watched other girls going through it who were much younger.