The anti-female genital mutilation campaigner who helped the creators of Call The Midwife on a storyline has said the episode mirrors her personal experience of FGM but is “beautiful and sensitively done”.
Nimco Ali, the co-founder of non-profit organisation Daughters of Eve, was the victim of FGM as a child and worked closely with show bosses on the BBC drama series.
She said she hopes the story will have a “positive effect” in the fight against it.
An estimated 200 million girls around the world have been put through the procedure, which involves the partial or total removal of parts of the female genitals for non-medical reasons.
Sunday night’s episode of Call The Midwife will highlight the plight of a pregnant Somali woman who is fighting for her life in the aftermath of an FGM procedure.
Nimco told the Press Association that viewers will relate to the character and her storyline, and praised the writers for their sensitivity around the topic.
She said: “I think viewers will see that this is a young woman just like many of them, who needs kindness and understanding.
“The fact that she is given both means so much. I think that’s the most touching aspect of it.
“It mirrors my own personal life in many ways and brings to life what has happened to so many women while giving birth, after having undergone FGM.”
Nimco said: “It is a beautiful episode and very sensitively done. It is hopefully going to have a very positive effect.”
She said: “The writers really wanted to listen – they came to the first meeting passionate about the issue but really wanted to tell the story of a young north Somali woman as true as they could.”
Writers also enlisted the help of campaigner Edna Adan, the former foreign minister of Somaliland and the founder of a maternity hospital in the country.
Nimco said: “(She) was a great help in giving, really, details information about what the midwife could expect having delivered many women with FGM herself.
“The story is told sensitively and there is no judgment, so for them it was about bringing it to life with these key details.”
The episode of Call The Midwife is set against the terror of the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the sisters of Nonnatus House listen to US president John F Kennedy’s ultimatum to Russian president Nikita Khrushchev.
Jessica Neuwirth, founder of international women’s group Donor Direct Action, said it is “fantastic” that shows such as Call The Midwife and others, including Casualty and Law And Order, are bringing the issue into the mainstream.
She said: “Awareness of FGM has increased dramatically in recent years in the UK, but activists working on the front-lines to end it are still not able to access the funds they need to scale up their work in countries such as Somalia, where prevalence is 98%.
“We need to fund efforts locally to end FGM globally and the UK and other governments need to do more to make this happen.”
Donor Direct Action runs an anti-FGM fund for frontline groups, which are ending the practice in Somalia and around the world.
Charity Barnardo’s, which runs the National FGM centre in partnership with the Local Government Association to prevent new cases of FGM in the UK and also support survivors in England and Wales, has spoken about the Call The Midwife storyline.
The centre’s director, Michelle Lee-Izu, said: “FGM, was a shocking discovery for midwives in the latest episode of the BBC TV drama, Call the Midwife, set in the 50s and 60s.
“What’s even more shocking is that this physically and emotionally damaging practice still goes on in the UK today. Despite FGM being illegal here since 1985 there still hasn’t been a single prosecution.
“Barnardo’s is tackling the issue by working with communities through training and education programmes at the National FGM Centre, run in conjunction with the Local Government Association.
“Agencies must also work better together to prevent FGM from happening by identifying girls at risk and helping to prosecute those who fail to protect girls from this type of abuse.”
The show’s creator Heidi Thomas has previously said she wanted to write about FGM for a long time but had to wait until the timeline of the show reached the 1960s.