WALTHAM Forest campaigner and activist Hibo Wardere has been celebrated as one the nation's ultimate ‘sheroes’ on International Women’s Day.

The mother-of-seven, who is herself a victim of FGM (female genital mutilation), has been a fearless campaigner against the cruel and illegal practice for 12 years, since fleeing to the UK as a refugee in 1989.

The Somali-born activist and Waltham Forest educator and author was named as one of the UK's 15 most inspirational women by the Women's Rights Network (WRN), a fast-growing grass roots women's rights movement.

Hibo, aged 51, became a victim of the most extreme, type-3 female genital mutilation (FGM) when she was 'cut' at the age of six. It was an horrific experience which she has described as "being engulfed in pain from head to toe".

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As Camden and Islington WRN said in their nomination: "She has turned unspeakable pain into power for change.” A spokesperson added: “Hibo has shown extraordinary courage and dignity in the way she has tirelessly campaigned to raise awareness of FGM and support survivors and help prevent more girls being mutilated.”

Hibo said: “The nomination made me feel really emotional. I am nothing without the women who support me. I never dreamt that the awful thing that happened to me would turn out to be a blessing. I have had a lot of support and an outpouring of love and encouragement.

“I am one of the luckiest human beings on the planet. Women from all walks of life tell me I inspire them and that gives me the fuel to carry on. I hope I’ve made a difference.”

In the time Hibo has been campaigning against FGM, laws have been changed to help stop the mutilation of girls. Hibo added: “I am so proud of the UK Government.”

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The World Health Organisation estimates there are more than 200 million girls and women alive to today who have undergone some form of FGM.

The online poll was won by Scottish politician and lawyer Joanna Cherry, a campaigner for women’s rights.

Hibo, who has faced online abuse, said she can now look forward to a film being made about her life, and carrying on with her work helping to save girls from FGM.