Speaking out: Edna Adan says FGM must no longer be seen as a “woman’s affair”. Picture: Alex Lentati
One of the world’s leading campaigners against female genital mutilation has called on men to take up the fight against the practice.
Maternal health pioneer Edna Adan, who was the first to speak out about ending FGM on Somali radio in the 1970s, said it should no longer be seen as a “woman’s affair” and that men are integral to stamping it out.
Ms Adan, former foreign minister of Somaliland and founder of a pioneering maternity hospital, said: “The men are my target, because these girls have a mother and a father. Men have had the easy way out saying ‘this is a woman’s affair’. But it should not be a woman’s affair. You can put your foot down if you are the head of the family.”
Ms Adan, 76, trained as a midwife in London in the Fifties. She returned to Somalia in 1961, and was married to the country’s prime minister.
She later set up a hospital in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, which trains women as midwives if they commit to learning about FGM.
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On a visit to London this month she welcomed the growing campaign to stamp out FGM in the UK, and suggested that men who allow it to happen here could be threatened with deportation. She said: “For Somali men the sons are very precious, so give an announcement that the son may risk deportation because a little girl was touched.
“That will trickle down to the countries they come from ... it’s time for men to feel it. Girls have been hurt far too much. I want people in the diaspora to go home and talk about it.
“The world is changing and uniting against this practice.”
The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital treats thousands of women who give birth despite being horrifically mutilated and scarred.
Ms Adan said she was inspired to speak out against FGM after seeing so many women suffer during childbirth. “It takes a lifetime to break that barrier and talk about it,” she said. “But when it comes out you can’t put it back.”
She wrote the Somaliland midwifery curriculum, which is followed by every university in the country. It includes a module on FGM.