By A.M. Peabody

The preparations for the Walk To End FGM next month are now on the home stretch.  We at Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation look forward to welcoming our guests from various parts of the world.  The guests this year comprise of renowned obstetricians and gynecologists, prosecutors, a former African politician, U.S. politician, professors, authors, FGM survivors, advocates, activists, students, nurses, teachers, concerned citizens and children.  Each year we bring our guests together where we cross political, racial, ethnic and religious lines; we find common ground in expressing our anti-FGM message to the world.

However this past Sunday, I was part of an afternoon tea hosted by the women of Centreville United Methodist Church in Centreville, Virginia in the U.S.  Although I am one of the women of that church, I had been invited to give a talk at the tea about the work our organization does.  As in many cases when I am invited to speak, I decided to prepare a PowerPoint presentation with church-friendly images.  I was advised that I only had twenty minutes to speak, allowing time for questions and answers.  I figured twenty minutes would be ample time for the presentation and questions.

I am always concerned about the topic of our cause when I speak.  I usually assess the audience to determine the proper language and images I will include in the presentation.  Everyone would agree that FGM is not an easy topic to talk about to people.  However the women attending the tea last Sunday showed interest in what I told them.  Unfortunately, time was soon spent and I needed to wrap up my presentation, and permit time for questions.

During the Q&A period, my hostesses wanted to know about the surgery, about counseling FGM survivors, about the laws against FGM in the U.S., and several other inquiries.  I am always pleased when my audiences ask many questions.  The more questions they ask indicate to me that my presentation and talk were understood, and it piqued their interests in FGM.

While I was delighted to see the interest expressed by the women at the tea, I was astounded at the end of my presentation when one of the guests approached me.  She said, “FGM is happening right here in Springfield, Virginia.”  My first impression was that she was speaking hypothetically until she shared with me a realistic story.  During the presentation, I had used my usual line, “Gone are the days when immigrants came to this country destitute.  They come today with money to purchase a home next door to you.  They could be practicing FGM in their basement in your suburban neighborhoods, and you would never know if you are not informed and educated on FGM, even if you heard screams.  You might assume that your neighbors are only disciplining their daughter.”  I use this alert so that my audiences will be mindful that it is not only people with lesser means practicing this heinous crime.  Therefore when the lady at the church made the remark, I was all ears to hear what she meant.

She proceeded to share with me an incident that occurred one evening in her Springfield, Virginia neighborhood.  She told me that one evening she and her daughter were standing in front of their Springfield home, when a young teenage girl came barging out of the home next door, screaming that her father was going to cut her.  Meanwhile, the father pursued the girl out of the house with a knife in his hand.  She and her daughter risked their lives that night, as they used their bodies to shield the screaming girl from her father.  My fellow church woman said that the father told them that it was their culture and that they did that in his country.  She told the determined father that what he was trying to do to his daughter was not an American culture.  She said the teenage girl shouted at her father that she was an American and did not want to be violated with the knife.  The local Springfield, Virginia police was called but the father was not detained.

The woman told me that she had learned about the practice of FGM during a presentation I had given back in 2014 at the church.  So when the father waved the knife at his daughter, she recognized what his intentions were even before he tried to justify his actions with culture.  Keep in mind, that had the Virginia police arrested the father that night, they could not have legally detained him for the attempted practice of FGM.  At the time, there was no law against the practice in Virginia.  The FBI could have arrested him for FGM, however.  Virginia could have arrested him for threatening his daughter with a weapon.  We applaud the Springfield, Virginia woman and her daughter for helping to save that teenage girl from her father.

Well, that was then but that father and all other fathers and mothers in the Commonwealth of Virginia need to know that effective July 1, 2017, they will be arrested, imprisoned and tried for FGM.  It is a criminal offense in Virginia to cut or have your daughter cut or mutilated.  This is a lesson well learned how crucial it is for us to educate the public on FGM.  As I always do at the end of my presentations, I urged the Centreville United Methodist women to go out and share what they learned on Sunday with their family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  On behalf of the Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation, I send our sincere gratitude to the women of Centreville United Methodist Church for their generous donation, given to assist with counseling and surgery for the many women living in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

On a special note, please remember that if you are traveling from out of state or out of country to attend the Walk To End FGM, and you require overnight accommodations, you need to secure your hotel reservations before tomorrow, Wednesday, September 27th.  The negotiated rate of $99 is only good until midnight tomorrow.  The official hotel this year is the Tysons Corner Marriott located at 8028 Leesburg Pike, Tysons Corner, Virginia 22182.  Book online by clicking on this link Book your group rate for Global Woman Peace Foundation Room Block to make your hotel reservations before midnight tomorrow.

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