Yesterday Somalian-born Nimco, who came to Britain as a four-year-old refugee, was appointed the new Independent Adviser For Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls by Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Having been subjected to female genital mutilation at the age of seven while on a ‘holiday’ to Djibouti, Nimco has dedicated nearly half her adult life to fighting for fellow victims.
Speaking to Glamour UK’s editor-in-chief Deborah Joseph, Nimco said she has been loyal to Boris since he agreed to help her eradicate FGM when she approached him during his campaign to become London Mayor.
Activist Nimco Ali OBE (pictured in July 2019) who is best friends with Carrie Symonds has hailed Boris Johnson a ‘true feminist’ – and claims she is trolled on social media for her support of the prime minister
Nimco, pictured with Carrie Symonds in July 2018, is rumoured to be a godparent to Boris and Carrie’s five-month-old son Wilfred
She is now rumoured to be a godparent to Boris and Carrie’s five-month-old son Wilfred – but Nimco insisted her close friendship with the PM and his fiancee will not hinder her ability to hold the government to account in her new role.
‘I like Boris. I like Carrie – she’s also an activist. She’s also fun,’ she said.
‘In my personal experience, [Boris] – and the Conservative MPs and the coalition government who were in power when I first started campaigning – were much more open in the past to supporting my FGM work.
‘I wrote to Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor, he ignored me. I tried to speak to Sadiq Khan and found him unfriendly. I spoke to and worked with Labour feminists, such as Jess Phillips, Sarah Champion, Stella Creasy, Harriet Harman – all incredible women, but they didn’t give me as much support as the Conservatives.’
Nimco added: ‘I get hate from all sides, especially on Twitter for my personal support of Boris.
‘Most of the time, I just mute the comments. I am not a linear person. I am multi-layered, but people want me to just be one thing.’
Speaking about the first time she ‘randomly’ met the PM, Nimco recalled: ‘He was campaigning to be Mayor. He was walking down Putney high street, near where my ex boyfriend lived, handing out [campaign] leaflets. I went up to him and said, “Will you help me eradicate FGM?” He agreed to help.’
She added that she has been loyal to him since and believes he is a ‘true feminist’.
Nimco said she has been loyal to Boris (pictured this week) since he agreed to help her eradicate FGM when she approached him during his campaign to become London Mayor
Historically a Labour supporter, Nimco said she would now work with ‘whoever was in power’ to ‘affect change’. Pictured with Carrie Symonds and Emms Barr in March last year
Nimco spoke to graphic detail about the harrowing ordeal she suffered when she was subjected to FGM as a child.
She told how she was held down by the ‘cutter’ who swore at her and called her a ‘brat’ – a word she still struggles with today – before removing the hood of her clitoris, pulling the skin over and ‘sewing her up’.
‘I had to wee every hour to make sure the hole didn’t close over and then had to wash myself with Dettol for weeks afterwards,’ Nimco bravely recalled.
‘It was excruciating and almost led to me to die from kidney poisoning. It was the end of my innocence.’
There are 137,000 women living with FGM in the UK alone today, but there are no official statistics on how many were cut before they arrived in the UK, or were taken abroad as Nimco was.
Nimco pictured with Carrie in a photo she shared to Twitter in March 2019 with the caption: ‘Huge well done to all the winners at The Green Heart Hero Awards tonight and also to the formidable @NimkoAli on the FGM Bill tonight. Good to know there are some things going on other than Brexit’
As a result of her determined campaigning, all doctors now have to report FGM, and Nimco travels the world trying to educate people about the 4,000-year-old custom.
In 2010 she co-founded the non-profit Daughters of Eve with Leyla Hussein before founding the Five Foundation, a global campaign to end FGM. Nimco was awarded an OBE in recognition of her work in 2019.
Historically a Labour supporter, Nimco said she would now work with ‘whoever was in power’ to ‘affect change’.
‘If Keir Starmer was PM, I’d beg him to work with me. I like him,’ she said. ‘The reality is, I don’t have the privilege of waiting for the most idealistic person to be in charge, someone whose policies I 100 per cent agree with. There are girls dying. I would work with whoever was in power to affect change.’
Carrie pictured with Nimco on a trip to Berbera, the former capital of Somaliland, in October 2018
Nimco – who made headlines last year when she denied the Prime Minister is homophobic after his use of the phrase ‘tank-topped bumboys’ in a newspaper column in 1998 – insisted she is not afraid to hold anyone to account, including Boris and Priti Patel.
‘Yes, we’ve had FGM added to the Children’s Act, but not enough has changed in the past seven years in terms of prosecuting people. I’m going to make sure I change that now.,’ she said.
Nimco admitted she had misconceptions about the Home Secretary before she met her, but claims she now believes she ‘genuinely cares about women’s causes’.
See the full feature on GLAMOUR UK.
WHAT IS FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION AND IS IT ILLEGAL?
The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM, which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman’s external genitalia.
Girls aged 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, most commonly in Gambia, Mauritania and Indonesia.
The procedure is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.
Once girls have been cut, they are deemed ready for marriage and taken out of school – but FGM causes health problems and can be fatal.
FGM became illegal in Uganda in 2010 but continues in secret, according to officials and police.
It is practised by both Muslim and Christian communities and by followers of some indigenous religions. People often believe FGM is required by religion, but it is not mentioned in the Koran or Bible.
In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on eliminating FGM, but it remains legal in certain African countries including Mali and Sierra Leone.
The practice is illegal in the UK, but according to figures it’s thought around 137,000 girls from Britain are taken to countries that still perform the procedure.