Honour for campaigners

Hibo Wardere and Leyla Qalbi Hussein

Hibo Wardere and Leyla Qalbi Hussein are joined by pupils from Walthamstow School for Girls on the steps of Waltham Forest Town Hall after being granted ‘freedom of the borough’ (Credit Jenna Selby)

Two women from Waltham Forest who campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) have been granted ‘Freedom of the Borough’.

Waltham Forest Council bestowed the rare honour upon Hibo Wardere and Leyla Qalbi Hussein at a town hall ceremony last month, following unanimous support from local councillors.

Hibo is the author of Cut – One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today and frequently gives talks to young people. She fled war-torn Somalia in the 1980s to come to London, later recounting her experiences in an essay and becoming an FGM educator.

Leyla is a psychotherapist who set up a counselling service for FGM victims and co-founded the charity Daughters of Eve. Her Channel 4 documentary The Cruel Cut was nominated for a BAFTA in 2014. Leyla also launched a government petition that was signed by more than 100,000 people and led to a public inquiry.

The pair were formally declared Honorary Freewomen of the London Borough of Waltham Forest “in recognition of the eminent services they have rendered over many years and as an expression of the high esteem in which they are held by the council”.

Hibo said: “I carry my borough whatever part of the world I am in. I am truly thankful that I was supported from day one – super grateful and will continue to make you proud.”

Leyla said: “Thank you Waltham Forest Council for this amazing recognition, I’m very proud and honoured.”