Vacances Sans Excision translated from French to English is Vacation or Summer without Cutting.  The U.S. branch of the Inter African Committee, more commonly known as IAC-USA on traditional practices, affecting the health of women and children is hosting their third annual Vacances Sans Excision; a special summer camp in the United States to teach, not only children but parents alike about the alternatives to Vacation Cutting.  The camp convenes on Saturday, August 19th at 9:00am and ends the same day at 4:00pm.

Established in 2006 as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, the mission of the Inter-African Committee USA is to promote the rights and well-being of women and children in at-risk immigrant communities, by bringing an end to harmful traditional practices through education, support, and encouragement of healthy traditional values.  It is part of a network of international organizations in several countries, partnering with the United Nations and local entities.  The organization endeavors to raise awareness of the continued predominance of century-old harmful practices that are carried out against women and children under the disguise of cultural traditions.

According to their leadership, IAC-USA is dedicated to furthering the rights of immigrant women and girls to freedom from harmful traditional practices of their native countries and cultures.  This includes early forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and other violent and injurious practices, while promoting the adoption of beneficial traditions and rites of passage.

The Vacances Sans Excision camp costs only Twenty U.S. Dollars ($20) per child for a full day, including meals and adventurous activities.  There are some children whose families are not in the position to afford the registration fee of $20.  IAC-USA has implemented a special sponsorship program for the children; they are currently accepting sponsorships of a child or children.  If you are able to purchase lunch for a day for $20 or more, you are able to sponsor a child to attend this important camp.

The designated camp site this year is at the Heifer Global-Village in Shepherds Springs, just outside Hagerstown, Maryland.  The exact address of the camp site is 16869 Taylors Landing Road, Sharpsburg, MD. 21782.  For those traveling from points in Northern Virginia, Silver Spring and Prince Georges County, follow these instructions.  Drive to the Salvation Army at 20120 Century Boulevard, Germantown, Maryland 20874, park your cars and ride the special reserved bus to the camp site.  The bus will depart the Salvation Army location at 7:00am sharp.  The children will be divided up in four groups; groups A, B, C and D, with group B being the youngest of the groups.

Here is the schedule of events parents and children can expect:

9:30am – 10:00am: Arrivals and use of the restrooms

10:45am: Games and Teambuilding

11:00am: Divide into four groups (Groups A, B, C and D)

11:00am – 12:00pm: Group A engages in Global Village; Group B engages in Nature Hike; Group C will engage in Vermiculture and Group D will engage in Games & Teambuilding.

12:00pm – 1:00pm: Lunch Break

1:00pm – 2:00pm: Group A will go nature hiking; Group B will take on Vermiculture; Group C will do Games & Teambuilding while Group D does Global Village.

2:00pm – 3:00pm: Group A does Vermiculture; Group B does Games & Teambuilding; Group C does Global Village and Group D does Nature Hike.

3:00pm – 4:00pm: Group A will do Games & Teambuilding; Group B will do Global Village; Group C will do Nature Hike and Group D will do Vermiculture.

 

Note:  Vermiculture pertains to how worms help to improve the soil.  The children will be expected to pick through the dirt to find worms and other things that might exist in the soil.  This is an adventure the children will never cease to tell their friends when they return to school.

 

The purpose of Vacances Sans Excision is to demonstrate to both the parents and children that vacation can be spent full of fun and learning, without the lifetime trauma of excising girls.  In most female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) practicing countries of the world, summer breaks are considered high season for performing FGM/C on girls. In search of finding a solution to parents taking the girls to their countries of origin during the summer, IAC-USA implemented the idea of a special summer camp.

The children attending the camp can expect to enjoy a full day of games, traditional lessons, including dance, art, home economics and meals.  The curriculum is designed to demonstrate the importance of teaching children about their heritage; this includes necessary cultural traditions such as dance, dress, food and the arts.  The children will learn West African traditions without the practice of FGM/C.

In countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the girls enter the society bush to go through the rite of passage to womanhood.  During their stay in the “bush”, they teach them to make baskets, cook meals, farming, how to be good wives and mothers, etc.  However baskets, meals and farming are not the only things the girls experience in the “bush”; they also undergo FGM/C as part of the passage to womanhood.  Camp Vacances Sans Excision will teach girls all of the lessons learned in the Sande and Bondo Society Bushes, but without the ritualistic cutting of their genitals.

Vacation Cutting is when girls are taken to their parents’ countries of origin from either the United States or a European country for the purpose of having FGM/C performed on them.  In the year 2013, the U.S. passed the law against Vacation Cutting; if anyone, including a parent, guardian or another adult takes a child from U.S. soil to another country for the purpose of having FGM/C performed on her will be subject to five-year imprisonment and a fine or greater.  Several U.S. States, such as Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Kansas, Nevada, etc. have included the ‘Vacation Cutting’ clause in their state laws.  When Michigan law goes into effect this October, that state law will also include the ‘Vacation Cutting’ clause.

 

For additional information about the camp, call (202) 498-1989, (301) 377-8230 or (973) 441-7950 or visit their website at www.iac-usa.org.

Send all comments and questions about the preceding article to info@globalwomanpeacefoundation.org or call (703) 818-3787.