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Ifrah Ahmed: The Muslim Woman Who Has Done More to End FGM than all Islamophobes Combined

Ifrah Ahmed, founder of the United Youth of Ireland

She fled war torn Somalia, she’s beautiful, she’s a victim of FGM, she fights to end FGM with the help of her comrades…no, she is not Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she is Ifrah Ahmed.

Rather than talk about ending FGM like many of the anti-Muslim haters do, there are actually people doing it, and surprise, they aren’t using it as a means to Islam/Muslim-bash, hence they get results.

Do you think Ayaan will support her, or Pamela Geller? No they will call her an Islamo-fascist, or someone who doesn’t understand her religion or culture properly.

In the meantime Ifrah continues with her good work:

Ifrah Ahmed: Dublin activist leading fight on many fronts

by Farid Omar (Digital Journal)

Toronto – With impeccable public relations skills and the drive and determination to bring change, the Dublin-based, Mogadishu-born, Ifrah Ahmed, continues to work tirelessly in her quest to fight for the rights of the most vulnerable members in society.

Having fled the Somali civil war, Ifrah Ahmed landed in Dublin, Ireland, in 2006 to begin a new life in exile as an asylum seeker from one of the most intractable conflicts in the African continent.Unlike many newly arrived refugees in Western Europe who may languish in a settlement limbo, Ifrah Ahmed quickly found traction in social activism, fighting for the rights of new communities in Ireland, such as refugees and newcomers from Africa, East Europe and other parts of the world.The charismatic, stunningly beautiful 23 year old activist has directly engaged Irish national leaders, including the man occupying the highest office in the land, President Michael D. Higgins and Mr. Joe Costello, the current Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In fact Ifrah has worked with these powerful politicians even before they assumed their current leadership roles.

In an exclusive interview with Digital Journal’s Farid Omar, Ifrah shared inspiring stories highlighting her multi-faceted brand of activism that involves support for international students, anti-racism initiatives, fundraising for worthy causes, HIV/AIDs awareness campaign and the far more sensitive fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a practice that affects millions of girls in a number of developing nations.

Rights groups note that FGM is a traditional practice with severe health consequences for girls and women. According to UNICEF, FGM is common in countries stretching from Senegal in West Africa to Somalia in East Africa and to Yemen in the Middle East while reports from Europe, North America and Australia indicate that it is practiced among immigrant communities as well.

The stats on FGM are startling in that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates indicate between 100 million and 140 million girls and women alive today have experienced some form of the practice while millions of girls remain at risk of genital mutilation annually.

In her early days of community mobilization, Ifrah worked as an independent advocate engaging policy makers, rights groups and mainstream organizations. She demonstrated her ability to work as a highly motivated social and community worker involved in many community projects and organizations such as UNICEF, Amnesty International, Irish Refugee Council, Caidre, The Africa Centre, Spirasi, Somali Community in Ireland, and Integration of African Children in Ireland.

As time passed, Ifrah quickly realized the need to establish a more viable platform where she can coordinate her activities at an organizational level. To meet the increasing challenges of new communities, Ifrah founded the United Youth of Ireland (UYI); an organization bringing together dedicated young people aged 15 to 25 initially drawn from different countries mainly from Africa and Eastern Europe. Today, the UYI has in its ranks many Irish youth who are part of a vibrant cadre of volunteers working for a cause in the service of communities where they operate. The UYI also helps young people from migrant communities in their artistic, creative and business endeavours.

Ifrah’s powerful advocacy on behalf of women, the victims of FGM, youth development and humanitarian relief in East Africa has received coverage in Irish and European media including reports and interviews in the Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Metro Eireann, News Talk/Dublin Q 102, The Sun and the Hot Press Magazine etc. In 2008, Ifrah was the Face of Africa Feature in the Exclusive Magazine. She has also received nomination for the “Women Inspiring Europe” 2012 online calendar.

In the public arena, Ifrah has organized and presented in major conferences including the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM 2012, International Women’s Day’s 2010 “Women Rights in Somalia”, IACI Art and Interculturalism, 2010 “Somali Culture and Art,” World Water Day 2010, “Importance of Water for African Life” and the APF Portugal International Conference to End FGM, Lisbon, 2010.

Under Ifrah’s leadership, the UYI has organized key events including a 2010 conference and fashion show in Dublin attended by over 300 enthusiastic participants. These events raise awareness on FGM which affects 18 different nationalities in Ireland. The Ifrah-led anti-FGM struggle in Ireland has been a difficult one to articulate both in affected migrant communities and in the Irish health system as well.

“We had a situation where Irish nurses had no clue about FGM, a practice that leaves its victims with long-term psychological and emotional scars and in extreme cases, leads to death from excessive bleeding” said Ifrah.

“Right from the time I started the campaign against FGM, girls in affected communities in Ireland who were largely asylum seekers, were terrified to speak about it. We had to educate Irish nurses on the FGM process so that they can come up with an appropriate response mechanism” observed Ifrah.

In driving her message across, Ifrah saw the necessity to speak from her own experience.

“As an FGM survivor, I had to engage Irish nurses and rally the support of Amnesty International, which has been conducting a European-wide anti-FGM campaign. We also had to break barriers in local communities here where the incidence of FGM is rampant. Some parents would tell me in the face ‘leave our children and culture alone.’ But we need to make it clear that FGM has nothing to do with culture or religion. It is simply a gross violation of girls’ rights that should be rooted out completely.”

Even in the West, the practice of FGM is prevalent among immigrant communities. Ifrah says that in UK for example, it is believed that “qualified health practitioners are cashing in on FGM charging up to 750 sterling pounds per procedure” adding that “a government crackdown there has resulted in the arrest and prosecution of unscrupulous practitioners.”

The fashion shows in Dublin have served as a useful tool to educate the Irish public and policy makers on the dangers posed by FGM.

“We have effectively used our colorful fashion shows to raise awareness not only on FGM but on anti-racism initiatives and a myriad of other campaigns. We need to send the message that young people are beautiful and the youth should edutain (educate and entertain) the public. To date, our fashion shows have proven extremely successful as we had huge turn outs and boasts of a laudable attendance that includes high profile officials from UNICEF and other UN agencies, Amnesty International, Muslim organizations and delegates from other European countries” stated Ifrah.

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