Speaking to 19-year-old Fahma Mohamed, the UK’s youngest PhD holder
She is going to be honoured for her tireless campaigning against FGM
19-year-old Fahma Mohamed will be awarded a Doctorate of Law by the University of Leicester on Friday, making her the youngest person to hve a PhD in the UK.
She will receive the award in recognition of her determined campaign work against FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), the removal of some or all of the external female gentalia.
From the age of 14, Fahma begun volunteering with a local charity, Integrate Bristol , that campaigns for equality and integration. The charity :”campaign against all forms of Violence and Abuse Against Women and Girls, (VAAWG), and promote gender equality; we aim to raise awareness and education around these issues through our creative projects.”
What inspired you to start campaigning?
“When I was around the age of 12 or 13, my English teacher – who was the co-founder of Integrate Bristol – spoke about FGM, but I had no idea what it was. I went home and asked my mother what it was and why people did it and I remember just being in complete shock at the response.”
“I had no idea that this existed, let alone that it was happening right now in the UK. I just couldn’t believe that no-one was talking about this when it was happening right under our noses. No-one seemed to be standing up and doing anything about it. This pushed me to volunteer for Integrate.”
“I used to be really shy in front of camera’s and doing any public speaking, but campaigning for something I was passionate about meant I was capable to do this. I was also in the right place at the right time when they asked me if I wanted to do it. I had no idea that it would become so big at the time. All I remember thinking was that I wanted to do everything I could to give a voice to all the young girls out there. No-one was standing up for them and I was willing to be that person and it spiralled from there.
“We got so many signatures so quickly and I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people along the way.”
Could you explain how your campaign got Michael Gove to warn teachers about the dangers of the practice of FGM?
“Our Buckle Up video was primarily a dig at Michael Gove. This is because we stand for gender equality and believe that this should be taught in schools, as well as informing students about FGM. It’s everyone’s problem.
“As Gove was Secretary State of Education, we were campaigning against him through this video. We’ve done many more songs that promote the anti-FGM campaign.”
What are your plans now and for the future?
“I will be starting uni in September at King’s College studying Bio-medical science but I won’t stop campaigning. It’s become a part of me now – this is me. I want people out there to listen to my voice and Integrate has given me the opportunity to speak to the general public. If any other issues arise in the future that I feel passionate about, I will campaign and fight against these. This is what I want to be involved in.”
What do you plan to do with your degree?
“I have no particular plans at the moment, I mean something happens every day. You just have to grab the opportunities whilst you can. I plan to do more of what I’m currently doing.
“We’re slowly expanding our work to campaign against child exploitation and gang cultures.”
Will your degree help with your campaign?
“Absolutely. One of the biggest things that will come out of me being awarded this is recognition. Hopefully this will help other people get recognition for what they campaign for.
“I hope this inspires people to stand up for what they are passionate about. I want them to believe they can do it as well, as long as you have that drive and motivation you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to.”