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Human Rights Defender of the month: Asmahan Abulsalam

As a child, Asmahan’s childhood was scarred by the violent practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), then popular in Somali culture. Girls as young as seven years were subjected to the violent practice often against their will, and young Asmahan was revolted by it.
“I witnessed very young girls aged between seven and ten years undergoing this harmful practice (FGM), conducted using rudimentary tools, which usually left long effects on these girls’ bodies. By all intents, it was a violation of both their bodies and their rights, and even at that early age, it didn’t sit well with me,” she says.
As she grew up, the social injustices against women would only grow more evident. In addition to FGM, girls were rarely taken to school. Instead, child marriages were frequent, and young girls would be married off before their first teenage birthdays, often to older men, where they would go on to lead lives blighted by systemic socio-cultural discrimination and abuse.

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