Growing up, Huda Mohamed knew that there was a “religious requirement” that many girls in her community would undergo – but no one liked to talk about what it was.

It was only when she became older and completed a nursing degree in the UK, that she connected this phrase to female genital mutilation (FGM) - the removal of part or all of a woman's external genitalia.

Born in the Saudi Arabian city of Taif to Somali parents, Huda was raised in a community in which, according to the World Health Organisation, 98% of women have undergone FGM.

Now, as an FGM-specialist midwife at the Whittington Hospital, her work is dedicated to helping women who have been cut.

“No one talks about FGM within communities. It’s very hidden, it’s very dark,” she explains.

“Sometimes, a 27-year-old will come in and be told – you’ve got FGM. And she will say – no one told me; what’s the difference, what’s normal?”

Having started her career as a midwife at the Whittington two decades ago, and as the lead FGM midwife at the hospital for the past eight years, Mohamed has heard countless heartbreaking stories.

Ham & High: Huda Mohamed was recently awarded an MBE for her work helping survivors of FGMHuda Mohamed was recently awarded an MBE for her work helping survivors of FGM (Image: Whittington Health)

One that she says has especially stuck with her was from a woman who came to the UK after she had undergone FGM in her home country.

Mohamed said: “This was a young woman who was cut at the age of eight. Her mum promised her a holiday, and then she was cut.

“For her, it always went back to that day that she was cut. That she felt that her mum hated her.

“This woman was an adult now, but she had no relationship with her family.

“At this time, she was so broken to the point that she felt lonely, and she didn’t speak to anyone about this until she came to our clinic. 

“The impact it has on a woman is really underestimated. Once FGM happens to them, you cannot change it. All we can do is support them.”

There are three main types of FGM, partial or total removal of the external part of the clitoris or the clitoral hood, partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the inner or outer labia are the first two.

Type three – in which the vaginal opening is narrowed through the creation of a covering seal, usually formed by cutting and repositioning the labia – causes complex problems during pregnancy.

Women with this type of FGM are at increased risk of needing a C-section, so the clinic offers to open the scar tissue to reduce these risks.

Huda said: “That can be done from 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s very important that you eliminate the risk factor before you go into labour.”

In countries such as Switzerland, Germany and France, clinics will also offer women the option of reconstructive surgery alongside psychosexual therapy.

But currently, this is not available on the NHS, something Mohamed hopes to change in the near future.

She said: “Reconstructive surgery is something we are talking about, its something we are lobbying for, and its something that survivors want.”

Legislatively, however, the UK is far ahead of its neighbours in how it criminalises the practice of FGM.

The Serious Crime Act 2015 makes it a legal duty for healthcare workers, social works and teachers to report FGM to the police.

Huda said: “In England, we have a great law, one of the greatest laws with regards to safeguarding and protecting girls who have undergone FGM.

“But we could do better. GPs could have a standardised question about FGM that they ask everyone.

“I also really want to see change in the education sector, to make it mandatory to teach and train the staff to include this education within the curriculum."

At the moment, she says, far too many women only speak about FGM for the first time when they become pregnant and visit her clinic, which she runs with the support of consultant Kiren Gill.

She said: “As a FGM midwife, my job is to make sure each woman understands the law, and that she is safeguarded.

“I refer her to her GP, so that hopefully the safeguarding continues in the community for many years to come.

“When we have a female baby, there is an alert on their NHS number saying this child has a family history of FGM.

“This mean that child can also be protected wherever they go, and that conversation continues in later life.”

On April 17, Huda received an MBE at Windsor Castle in recognition of the work she has done to help FGM survivors.

She said: “I had my mum with me and three of my four daughters. It was a beautiful, sunny day. A day to remember.

“Running an FGM clinic is the opportunity to make changes and be an advocate for women. I’m really proud to be in this position.”