The moment a girl is born into a society that accepts female genital mutilation (FGM), her life is mapped. Her right to marry, her right to education, her right to explore, is decided by her. Why? Because she is an asset, a commodity. And like any other asset or product, it can be profitable or it can be disposable. FGM, also called "cutting,quot;, occurs when it is treated like both.
When I was six years old and living with my family in Somalia, I was a victim of female genital mutilation. From that moment on, my whole life changed. My world collapsed that day. I was a child; They had slaughtered me.
FGM is a trauma that does not end in childhood. It becomes part of the whole story of a girl's life. When a girl is mutilated like this, her life unfolds on a path where she has no voice. I do not.
Every day, female genital mutilation mutilates thousands of girls around the world. Some 200 million women and girls alive today have suffered.
Due to population growth in the 29 countries where the practice is particularly prevalent, UNICEF predicts that the number of girls to be cut will increase from 3.6 million a year in 2013 to 6.6 million by 2050, if nothing is done to stop it. .
Those girls will never forget what has happened to them, like I never will. It is a horrible horror that I carry with me. I'm 50 now, but anger is always fresh, always raw.
I remember that day when, as a six-year-old girl, I became a prisoner of my own body. I remember that everyone around me, everyone I trusted, knew exactly what was going to happen to me and did nothing to stop it.
I knew that the reason it was happening to me was so that I could be "preserved,quot; for someone else: my future husband. My life didn't matter, it was about him. I felt trapped. There was no point in living, there was no point in being born, if you were just going to be the producer of someone else's children.
Since that day, I have been in tremendous physical, emotional, and psychological pain. But I normalized it, because everyone else around me also normalized it.
But not anymore. Although it took me many years to get to this point, I have spent the last 11 years campaigning against FGM.
There is a much greater awareness of this issue now.
My family fled the civil war in Somalia for the United Kingdom, where female genital mutilation is prohibited. Here, the government listens to activists like me more closely. We have had consultations, and I believe that the UK government now views FGM as a form of child sexual abuse and as a child protection issue, rather than as a cultural practice that should not be involved.
This support has given me the courage to follow and speak much more openly about FGM, particularly in schools. Most of my work now involves educating youth and students. For this I was born, it is what gives me tremendous hope and meaning. I think it is the young people who will finally eradicate this practice.
But not only western societies like the UK are listening and where attitudes are changing. In Senegal, for example, the practice of female genital mutilation is still happening, but the government and the leaders of society are taking steps to end it.
Senegal has used human rights laws to teach people. The constitution explicitly prohibits the practice of female genital mutilation and, as a result, the last report from the nongovernmental organization, 28toomania, shows that approximately 80 percent of the population, crucially, both men and women, believe they should stop. There is a much greater understanding now about the medical dangers of female genital mutilation, including the risk of dying in childbirth.
But what really worked in Senegal is that the men came together and said, "I don't want women to be cut."
I believe that men have an important role to play. In most societies, men tend to remain silent about things that are happening to women, even when they know it is happening, because it has to do with parts of the female body.
But it is not just a question of women, it is a question of human rights. And human rights issues are also men's issues. If you become a father and you know that your daughter is going to be cut, you must defend her.
Therefore, I ask men in all of our communities to have the courage to stop this violence against women and children. It has lasted long enough and has always been done for the benefit of men. It is time for men to recognize their part in it.
In my activism, I have seen many changes. The women I know have changed their minds about cutting off their daughters. Conversations between mothers and families have been opened.
Can you imagine what society would be like if women around the world could write their own destinies?
Give girls education and see what they can achieve with their lives. Don't cut their meat and expose them to trauma for life. Don't normalize their deaths. Treasure them.
I have high hopes for the future. I have no doubt that female genital mutilation will be eradicated in the next century. I believe it with all my heart. And I hope I'm alive to see it.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.