Last Saturday evening, the Inter-African Committee USA (IAC-USA) celebrated the formal closing of their summer camp, Vacances Sans Excision in a formal dinner at the Gaithersburg Marriott.  Although the organization has held the camp three consecutive years, this is only the second year they have formally closed the camp in a ceremonial dinner.

IAC-USA is the U.S. branch of the Inter-African Committee, which advocates against traditional practices affecting the health of women and children.  IAC is present in several countries around the world, including the United States.  The U.S. branch is run by a President, Mrs. Fatoumata Kande and a Board of Directors.  Several years ago, Dr. Morissanda Kouyate, the Executive Director of IAC was instrumental in working with the United Nations to declare February 6th as a day of observance against the practice of FGM.  The day was named “International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM”.  Since then, the day is observed throughout the world every year, led by the United Nations.  The Inter-African Committee has been engaged for many years in addressing traditional practices that affect the lives of women and children, which includes the traditional practice of female genital mutilation.

During the evening, Dr. Morissanda Kouyate introduced a newcomer to the world of advocacy against female genital mutilation.  One of their distinguished guests was Mrs. Maria Nam-Hee Kim of South Korea.  He told the audience that Mrs. Nam-Hee Kim, who spreads peace to countries around the world, has decided to make female genital mutilation one of her causes.  The IAC Executive Director, Dr. Kouyate and the President of IAC-USA, Mrs. Fatoumata Kande together presented an award to Mrs. Nam-Hee Kim for her work toward the spread of peace in the world.

Mrs. Nam-Hee Kim is the Founder of the International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG).  Her organization believes that the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is rooted in gender inequality and that it attempts to control a woman’s purity, since it targets young girls and violates their rights to health, security, and physical integrity.

Headquartered in South Korea, IWPG is led by a woman with a motherly heart.  Mrs. Maria Kim believes that peace begins with oneself.  She said, “As individuals, we must first share our happiness and the value of life with others, and by doing this we can start to take small steps toward our goal.  These small changes will improve our own lives and the lives of neighbors, until eventually the world will become peaceful.” This peace-loving mother has traveled the world, spreading her message of peace to countries such as Costa Rica, Uruguay, Peru, Uganda, Finland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, the U.S. and many others.  Now she will be making her appearance in Guinea, West Africa, where she will work in collaboration with Inter-African Committee in the campaign to end FGM.

In addition to the speeches, awards and dinner, the evening was festive with women dressed in an array of colorful African evening attire.  As the live West African ensemble harmonized their instruments, the women formed a circle on the dance floor in the ballroom and danced to the beat of the music.

One of the highlights of the evening was the fundraising, led by a Guinean native, who called on guests in the room to pledge donations.  She singled out the guests at each table for pledges until she had gotten commitments from all of the tables in the ballroom.  At the end of the evening, the Inter-African Committee USA was pleased to declare another successful closing celebration of Vacances Sans Excision.

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