Examining the life of Leyla Hussein one can see the selflessness of a great philanthropist who is determined to use the tragic events of her life to strengthening others who have found themselves in similar shoes and to change the course of events for the upcoming generation.
Leyla Hussein is a Somali psychotherapist and social activist. She is the Chief Executive of Hawa’s Haven, and a co-founder of Daughters of Eve, a non-profit organization which campaigns for greater awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM) and works to support young women and girls. She runs savior groups for women/girls who have undergone female genital mutilation. Hussein was born in 1980 in Somalia. Even though she came from a privileged family where her parents were educated professionals, she still underwent Female Genital Mutilation. She was pinned down on a table by four women and cut, after which she received presents, as a bribe which made her doubt the people she should have trusted. This experience although very hurting set as a drive towards the achievement her dreams. Hussein later immigrated to the United Kingdom for her post-secondary education; after giving birth to a daughter at the age of 21 and was forced to confront the true extent of the psychological trauma that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) had left her with. She earned a postgraduate diploma in therapeutic counseling from the Thames Valley University.
Hussein’s experience created a passion in her to fight against female genital mutilation and reduce the harm it had already brought on its present victims. Her desire to create a support network for women and girls with similar experiences made her enroll at Thames Valley University where she earned a degree in therapeutic counseling. Hussein has over a decade of work experience on reproductive health, with a background as a youth outreach worker. Hussein worked for African Well Women Clinic in Waltham Forest where she worked closely with female genital mutilation (FGM) survivors from the UK. She also broke the cycle of FGM in her family with her own daughter. She has 8 years of experience in working with young people as youth outreach worker. Leyla worked at the NAZ project London as a sexual health advisor working with Somali affected by HIV and AIDS. Following her pregnancy, she wanted to ensure the physical safety of her daughter and that inspired her to start campaigning to make a change on how girls globally are protected from all forms of harm. Hussein is the Chief Executive of Hawa’s Haven, a coalition of Somali women campaigners and community activists that aims to raise awareness on gender-based violence. She also runs the support therapy group Dahlia’s Project (a support group for women who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM)), which was established in partnership with Manor Garden Health Advocacy Project where she serves as an Independent Training Consultant, as well as a Community Facilitator in 2010, she along with Nimco Ali and Sainab Abdi founded Daughters of Eve. As part of her role, she has made links with many organizations working with young people such as youth groups, local Somali football teams, and non-African youth groups. The non-profit organization was established to help young women and girls, with a focus on providing education and raising awareness on FGM. Hussein and Ali have managed to bring Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) into the spotlight and break the taboo surrounding it in the UK. In 2014, following their successful e-petition calling for a stop to FGM, the Girl Summit 2014 hosted by the UK government and UNICEF announced new action and funding to protect those at risk from FGM and forced marriage in a generation. That same year, they were named as two of Britain’s most influential women in the BBC Woman’s hour power list. Hussein organized a conference of over 400 people in response to the backlash against Somalis in the UK following the 7/7 London bombings. She worked with the Somali Youth Forum (SYF) to show a more positive image of their community and highlight the talent and contributions of young Somalis.
Leyla possesses great leadership qualities. She was formerly an advisor for the END FGM-European campaign supported by Amnesty International, speaking in this capacity before the Cyprus, Vienna and London legislatures. In addition, Hussein sits on the board of trustees of The Special FGM Initiative Advisory Group and the Desert Flower Foundation Advisory Group, a charity funded by Waris Dirie, and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary advisory group on Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) Scrutiny and Involvement Panel by the Crown Prosecution. She also used to sit on Naz Project London Board of Trustees.
She has made a great impact on the lives of women in her society as this has won her a lot of awards. Among these awards are the 2008 PCT Breaking Down Barriers Award, the 2010 Cosmopolitan Ultimate Campaigner Women of the Year Award, the 2011 Emma Humphrey Award, the Lin Groves Special Award, the 2012 True Honor Award by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Right organization, the BBC 100 Women of 2013, the Ambassador for Peace Prize by the Inter-religious and International Peace Federation, Debbets 500 list since 2014. In addition, Hussein and Ali received a community/charity award at the 2014 Red Magazine Woman of the Year awards for their work with Daughters of Eve. They also placed sixth in the Woman’s Hour Power List 2014.
Hussein currently works with a number of organizations in order to eradicate FGM, including the Metropolitan police as part of Project Azure and advises the END FGM European campaign supported by Amnesty International Ireland. She also serves as an Independent Training Consultant and Community Facilitator at the Manor Garden Health Advocacy Project. Hussein has been invited to speak on Somali issues on local, national and international television and radio programs including the BBC world radio service, World has your say, BBC Today and Five Live, Universal TV (Somali TV), Channel 5, Al Jazeera, Islamic channel, BBC 24 and took part in a Dispatches documentary on refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Her impact continues to be felt both in Somalia and beyond as she has changed the painful fate of so many female children.