Review | Cut by Hibo Wardere


Hibo Wadere's memoir is utterly devastating, but should be compulsory reading around the globe. I read this in less than 48 hours, unable to really focus on anything else. I had no idea the brutality of the practice, and more shocking was how prevalent it is, even here in the UK.

We follow Hibo from a six year old awoken in the early hours of the morning, led into a tent at the bottom of her garden by her mother, held down by her aunts and mutilated in a painful, undignified and barbaric manner. It does not make easy reading, Wardere spares no details of her ordeal, however the descriptions of the pain and fear she felt are incredibly powerful, and truly bring home how hideous the practice is. 

Her story describes growing up, living with FGM; the shame, the pain, the constant infections, and the now destroyed relationship with her mother who she saw as the reason for her troubles, until she grew up and decided to start a new life in England, where she could protect her own future daughters from the fate she suffered. She begins her new life, falls in love, settles into the English culture, and has some minor surgery to relieve some of the difficulties of her mutilation. However she comes to realise that her new sanctuary isn't as safe as she had first thought and slowly faces the reality that FGM is a prevalent problem in many communities in the UK, and that there were girls at the school in which she worked who could be in danger.

Hibo could have buried her head in the sand, ignored the issue and continued to live peacefully. Instead she decided this was her chance to take a stand. She used her position as a classroom assistant to bring attention to the teachers, many of whom knew little to nothing about the practice. A few even thought it was a harmless, even joyful, coming of age ritual. Wardere used her own testimony to educate the staff, and she found herself being invited to speak at other schools, explaining the reality of FGM and it's consequences, and teaching them to spot the warning signs of vulnerable girls. Hibo's message has since spread and she is nationally recognised as one of the leaders in the movement against FGM today.

Her story is harrowing all the way through, however it is ultimately one of triumph. She has survived one of the most disgraceful abuses still considered acceptable in parts of the world and used her experience to save other women. She talks with grace and conviction and her testimony is engaging. She highlights the importance of the role men must play in ending FGM, by taking a stand and saying that preserving a woman's supposed purity is no justification for removing sections of a child's genitals and stitching them up, leaving them with a hole the size of a hole-punch puncture through which they must urinate and bleed. All so that their husband can be assured that his wife is untouched on their wedding night... before getting to break her in... leading to several days in hospital.... But y'know we don't need feminism anymore. She also does a beautiful job of talking delicately about the women who allow the practice to continue, and get their daughters cut. Rather than vilifying them, she looks instead at the culture that fears female sexuality, and brainwashes them into prioritizing purity over all else, because it will ensure a good marriage, and therefore a good secure future for their daughters, who have no other opportunity to create a good life for themselves.

I would urge anyone to read this book, it has truly opened my eyes to something that I have allowed myself to ignore for too long. Maybe I don't have any power to stop this happening as an individual, but part of eradicating this is creating the conversation, ensuring that we as a society are informed and united against this practice. Only by creating an open dialogue about a problem that is so taboo can we begin to develop legal policies protecting children, and perhaps engage with supporters of FGM and present a united front against their way of thinking. Steps have already been taken in the right direction but there is a long way to go. It's not simply a matter of implementing laws or catching the cutters, it's a case of changing a cultural mindset that has gone mostly unchallenged for generations. It's a long uphill struggle but Hibo Wardere's passion and power make me feel like perhaps it can be done.

All of this aside, go read the fucking book. Deal with the discomfort and come out a more educated person, with a deeper knowledge of something that is often treated as a shameful secret. You will not regret it.

Here are a few other resources for anybody interested in finding out more. 

Thank you for reading 


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