Eight months into the project, Men Speak Out is on the right tracks. A few preparatory meetings have taken place, situational analysis has started, and the training of the peer educators will start in September. We are confident that this project will live up to its expectations and contribute to the end of FGM.
We invite you to meet a few people that make this project.
Meet MOHAMED BASHIR, Himilo Foundation
My name is Mohamed Bashir. I come from Somalia and I live now in Nijmegen, the oldest city of the Netherlands. I have had the opportunity to live and study in this country, which has now become my second home. After graduating as a graphic designer, I have been an active community worker for the last four years. My curiosity motivated me to become a community worker.
My involvement in the fight against FGM goes back to 2013, when I had the opportunity to be one of the nationwide trainers for a project of Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (Netherlands). The aim of this project was to invite different communities to discuss taboo topics, such as early and forced marriage, homosexuality and many more.
During this project, I heard a lot about FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). Even though I had heard these words many times, I didn’t know what it really was until I watched a documentary about the lives of circumcised women. It was one of the most horrific acts I have ever seen. Since then I started to learn more about these harmful practices and danger of FGM.
What is your role in the Men Speak Out project?
The HIMILO Foundation in the Netherlands is one of the partners of the Men Speak Out project. I work with them as a community educator, which means that I will be working on dissemination activities within the community, organizing meetings, participating in the European Steering Committee meetings. I will also help in the identification and the selection of the peer educators.
What makes this project special to you?
The commitment of men is crucial in the fight for the abolition of FGM. For many reasons, men are too rarely involved. It is my responsibility as a man, but also as a community educator, to stand up and speak out against harmful practices made to our daughters, wives and mothers. They desperately need the involvement of men to support the fight.
What major challenges will need to be overcome?
Changing the opinions of men on FGM will be our biggest challenge. For different reasons men have their own interpretations of the reasons to perform the practice.
Most men aren’t aware of the mental and physical consequences of the female genital cuttings, both to the women and to our society. Our mission is to help them understand and put an end to these harmful practices.
Have you already witnessed positive change around you?
Yes I have, and it is very encouraging. During a recent focus group discussion on FGM, I experienced something very different than anticipated. I thought that most men would try to avoid talking about FGM, but I was very happy to see them talking openly about it. And most importantly, a majority of them were against the cuttings. This gave me hope and confidence that we will soon see these harmful practices coming to an end.