Female Circumcision (Infibulation) in Somalia: A Comparison of the Effectiveness of Two Projects Against Such Practices – the Waris Dirie Project and the Mana Abdurahman Project

Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.3-4 – 2016

KEY WORDS: Somalia, female genital mutilation, infibulation, anti-FGM projects.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), in its bloodiest form, is endemic in the Horn of Africa, where infibulation (or phara-onic circumcision) is still practised today. To prevent it, local African populations have worked with projects that have not always proved effective. In this paper, two such projects carried out in Somalia are examined. Both have several characteristics in common: they aim to eradicate the same cultural practice – female circumcision; they were founded by women; and they are managed independently, with no Western intervention. The Somali founders were: Waris Dirie, a supermodel, now working with the United Nations against FGM, who left Somalia when she was still a child, now living and working abroad; and Mana Abdurahman (who died in 1974), the daughter of the sultan of Merka, who dedicated her whole life to her people. We compare how these two women tackled the problem, and examine the ef-fectiveness of their respective projects. Both demonstrate how a full commitment and a profound knowledge of the cultural roots of this practice are required if FGM is to be successfully eradicated.

Grassivaro Gallo, P.
Former Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Department
of Applied Psychology, University of Padua,
Via Venezia 8. Padova 35131, Italy. E-mail: pia.grassivaro@unipd.it