The Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the Advisory Council, the Nomination Committee, Volunteers and Event Planners of Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation send their profound appreciation to all of their sponsors, donors, supporters, speakers, awardees, partners, participants and walkers for helping to make the 2017 Walk To End FGM a great success this past Saturday.

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation (GWPF) hosted the fourth annual Walk To End FGM last Saturday at the Sylvan Theater on the Washington National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Among the sea of purple shirts that gathered on the grounds of the Mall were participants from as far as the Republic of Somaliland, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and various U.S. states.

GWPF conducted their itinerary a bit differently this year.  They began the celebrations last Thursday evening when the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University co-hosted a panel discussion with GWPF and a partner organization, RAHMA.  Serving on an extraordinary panel were Susan Masling of the U.S. Department of Justice, Stephen Hayes of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Pierre Foldes, FGM Medical Expert, Linda Weil-Curiel, French Attorney and Human Rights Activist, FA Cole, Inspirational Speaker, Author and Activist and Samantha Nerove of America Matters.  Dr. Foldes presented a powerful video which had never before been seen by Americans.  GWPF thanks Karen McDonnell, Donald Strong and Ghada Khan of the Milken Institute School of Public Health for helping make the evening a great success.

Last Friday afternoon GWPF’s Nomination Committee hosted a welcome lunch for their awardees at their office in Fairfax, Virginia.  The afternoon was spent in conversation among board members, board advisors, awardees and committee members.  They discussed some of the intricacies and complications of female genital mutilation.  Susan Gibbs, a supporter of GWPF and the Walk To End FGM hosted a casual dinner for the out of country and out of state guests of GWPF at her home Friday evening.

Then came the long-awaited and anticipated day, which was the Walk To End FGM on Saturday.  Emcee and Board Member, Arielle Buchmann opened the pre-walk ceremony with a recap of the kind of year FGM advocates and activists had spent.  She told the crowd that for the first time in American history, major Federal arrests were made earlier this year for the practice of FGM in Michigan.  Buchmann turned the microphone over to Angela Peabody, the Executive Director.  Peabody shared a story with the crowd how a neighbor in Springfield, Virginia had come face to face with FGM.  The neighbor had risked her life to safe a young girl from her father who attempted to mutilate her.  Peabody’s point to the participants was the importance of awareness and education about female genital mutilation.

Severina and Senator Black

Severina, Senator Black and Talaso

Severina and Senator Black Converse

Virginia State Senator, Richard H. Black delivered the Keynote Address of the day.  As Senator Black expressed his disdain for the gruesome practice of FGM, he told the audience that he has seven granddaughters and seven grandsons.  He said he could not imagine what the many little girls go through when FGM is inflicted on them.  He applauded activists such as Edna Adan Ismail from Somaliland, who happened to share the stage with him.  The Senator is responsible for putting forth a bill to his Virginia Senate colleagues for a law against FGM in his Commonwealth of Virginia earlier this year.  That state law became effective on July 1st of this year.

F.A. Cole, author, speaker and activist shared with the audience, her experiences just a month ago when she underwent post-FGM reconstructive surgery by Dr. Marci Bowers.  Cole stunned the crowd as she spoke about the new found feelings in her genitalia.  She said she prays that God sends her a husband so that she and her husband will enjoy her new life and new genitalia.  Cole spoke openly and was unbashful about the trauma she suffered as a child when she and her sister were taken to the Bondo Society Bush by her stepmother in her native Sierra Leone, and were mutilated.  She had always been of the impression that they had only excised her clitoris until she went in for the reconstructive surgery last month, and was told that her labia minora had been removed as well.  Cole said that new knowledge angered her.

Sam, Severina, Arifa and Francess

Mariam Bojang, Severina Lemachokoti and FA Cole

Severina Lemachokoti, a graduate student in Kansas was the third speaker of the day.  She too shared her heart-wrenching story about being taken in and experiencing female genital mutilation in her native Kenya.  Both Cole and Lemachokoti brought tears to some of the audience.  Such brave young women as Severina and Francess are an inspiration to other young women who are too bashful or afraid to come forward and speak out against what they have experienced.  There is hope that the ease in speaking about the experiences of FGM by women and girls will increase in the near future.

Adama Diaby Receives Award

Mariya Taher Receives Award

GWPF recognized ten people on Saturday, including a secondary student from New York.  Senator Richard Black received an award in the category of Politics.  Linda Weil-Curiel was recognized in the Legal category.  Tobe Levin was awarded for Literary, while Dr. Pierre Foldes and Frederique Martz were both recognized in the Medical category.  In the categories of Survivor Activist and Advocacy, Mariya Taher and Arifa Nasim were awarded respectively.  Edna Adan Ismail was awarded in the category of Education and Training.  Maggie O’Kane was awarded in the category of Media, while Adama Diaby was recognized as the 2017 Student Ambassador.  Each awardee was given time to deliver a brief statement after receiving his or her award.  Edna Adan, an 80 year old shared that 73 years ago she was a 7-year old girl when her genitals were mutilated.  She said when her father returned home that evening and she saw how angry he was, she knew that what they had done to her was wrong.  GWPF congratulates their 2017 awardees on the work they are doing against FGM, and ask that they continue to their remarkable work.

Djessou Kouyate and Julie Taitt

Mariam Bojang from Seattle

Prizes were also presented to the top three fundraising teams.  Team Arifa Nasim walked away with the first prize, which was handmade by secondary school girls in Sierra Leone, donated by F.A. Cole.  Team Educate2Eradicate came in second place, while Team Tobe Levin Von came in third place.  The second and third prizes were original oil paintings on canvas, donated by artist Corinna Spanu.  The runner-up teams for fourth, fifth and sixth places were NOVA BPW, Peabody against FGM and Let’s Get Rid of FGM respectively.  The 4th, 5th and 6th prizes were donated by 4imprint, which will be delivered to the winners.

The 5K walk began at Jefferson and 15th Streets, SW as the purple sea streamed up Madison Street next to the African American Museum, and all the way to 7th Street, passing the National Museum of Natural History, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture.  They crossed over to Jefferson Street, passing the Hirshhon Museum, the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, as they made their way back to the Sylvan Theater.  GWPF sends appreciation to their vigilant volunteers, led by their captain, Talaso Fecha.

Refreshments were provided by sponsors Giant Food, Costco and Natura Foods.  Other sponsors were America Matters, Exit Mortgage, 4imprint, Chipotle, Milken Institute School of Public Health, F.A. Cole and Corinna Spanu.

The weekend ended on Sunday when Chipotle hosted a fundraising event at their Georgetown restaurant.  Fifty percent of every sale made on behalf of GWPF between the hours of 4:00pm and 8:00pm that day will be awarded to the organization.

GWPF hopes that you will return next October to join them for their fifth Walk To End FGM on Saturday, October 27, 2018.  Please save that date and weekend on your 2018 calendar.

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