Smuggling vulva-decorated cupcakes into the Somali region of Ethiopia was one of those moments where I thought: “My work as an anti-FGM campaigner gets me into interesting situations sometimes.”
Three years earlier I’d made vulva cupcakes as part of a documentary about FGMthat I’d done for Channel 4. “We need you to bring them with you,” said Sagal Abdi, vice executive director of Maandeeq, when she invited me to an event in Jijiga, the capital of the region, part of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.
Honestly, I was taken aback. I grew up in the UK as part of the Somali diaspora, and I’d assumed the people of Jijiga would not be ready for vulva cupcakes. But Abdi, also part of the diaspora, reassured me that the Ethiopian women had requested them. “Leyla, they watched the documentary and loved the concept of using art for campaigning,” she said.