Review: What We’re Told Not to Talk About by Nimko Ali

Nimko Ali is a British-Somalian feminist, activist and anti-FGM campaigner. And now with her first book ‘What We’re Told Not to Talk About (But We’re Going to Anyway)’, she can add author to this impressive list.

What We’re Told Not to Talk About is a collection of stories from 42 women in 14 countries. We see women from around the world talk openly about their own experiences on the often taboo subjects of periods, orgasms, childbirth and menopause.

These women have diverse backgrounds, cultures and religions. Some are trapped in poverty, some are living in privilege. But collectively, they illustrate the dangers of maintaining the status quo.

The stories vary from sad, to uplifting to devastating. From a Syrian refugee having to give birth in a refugee camp in France, to a homeless woman on the streets of London, using Burger King wrappers as makeshift sanitary pads, to a Somalian women’s joy at reaching menopause, finally free from the clutches of her husband’s demand for babies.

Ali has chosen to let the women share their stories in their own words, which makes for a more compelling read, particularly when hearing stories from Muslim women, who are so often spoken for or about in the media, but rarely heard from directly.

Ali shares her own experience of FGM and also steps in to provide further information on the topics raised in the women’s stories.

“It’s bloody incredible that sanitary products are still seen as luxury items. And on top of that, we pay a 5 per cent tax for what the government defines as a ‘non-essential luxury item’. So, here’s a list of some of the things considered more essential than towels and tampons, all taxed at zero per cent. – Bingo – Jaffa Cakes – Kangaroo meat – Herbal tea – Chickpeas.”

And while there is a lack of representation from women of different sexual orientations and gender identities, it would be a case of ‘whataboutery’ to level this critique at Ali. Giving a voice to one women’s story should not be seen as taking the voice of another.
A book like this opens the door for sharing more stories from more women, and will eventually destroy the stigma surrounding these topics.

Rating: 4 out of 5. Such an interesting read and I feel I have a better understanding of what women go through in other parts of the world. Highly recommended reading for all, and visit The Five Foundation to find out more about the work Nimko Ali has done in the fight to end FGM.


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