At just 14 years old, Fahma Mohamed discovered something shocking.
The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) was taking place in her own community. She asked her mother what the term meant.
What she discovered led Fahma to begin campaigning for the brutal ritual to stop. “I was in complete shock that this even existed,” she told The Huffington Post UK.
Working with local charity Integrate Bristol, the schoolgirl has made an inspiring contribution against gender inequality and violence against young people arriving from outside the UK.
This year, now aged 18, Fahma launched a petition backed by The Guardian, demanding former education secretary Michael Gove write to every school in the country to urge them to safeguard girls from FGM.
Fahma speaks out about FGM
Within three weeks, it attracted more than 230,000 signatures and won the support of Nobel-prize winning education campaigner Malala Yousafzai and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
Gove bowed to pressure and met Fahma, before finally agreeing to write to teachers.
It hasn’t been easy. She has been ignored and endured criticism and even threats for speaking out against the ritual, which is usually carried out on young girls.
But last week, she was awarded the Good Housekeeping Women Of The Year Award for Outstanding Young Campaigner of the Year, in recognition of her determination and commitment to warning girls and parents across the UK about FGM.
Lindsay Nicholson, the Editorial Director of Good Housekeeping, said Fahma “proves that you don’t need access, influence or a large staff to effect real change – just passion, drive and overwhelming determination.”
FGM involves the cutting off or partial cutting of a girl’s genital organs. It is common in some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities.