Walk To End FGM 2015 Is A Success
Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation hosted the second 5K Walk to End FGM this past Saturday, October 31st. After many months of promoting the event and sending out reminders and invitations, the day finally arrived.
For the organizers and volunteers, the day began at 6:30 in the morning as they arrived at the Washington National Mall at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW to begin the preparations of the day. Daylight had not yet peeked through the darkness as the organizers began to set up tables, chairs and podium for the event.
As the sun made its way into a chilly morning, the guests began to arrive with enthusiasm and a warm embrace of the walk-A-thon. They claimed their t-shirts and bags, as they greeted one another with solidarity.
The program, MC’d by Chelsia Bhatti and Summer Pearson began on time at 9:00am. Dr. Marci Bowers, the Keynote Speaker began by saying, “I am incredibly honored to be here as your speaker today. When I say honored, I do so sincerely because I am an outsider, an onlooker, a woman of privilege, a surgeon, an activist, a western educated Caucasian woman. And yet you have invited me and I am truly humbled. I uniquely value my own womanhood—because it also came with struggle, if you know anything about my personal history— and so, I suppose, it gives me special purpose to address this problem of FGM.” Dr. Bowers, the volunteer surgeon of the West Coast organization, Clitoraid is also a renowned gender reassignment surgeon in San Francisco, California. She has been surgically restoring the clitoris of survivors of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) for many years, both in the US and in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
Dr. Bowers continued by quoting Civil Rights activist, Rosa Parks, “never be fearful about what you are doing when what you are doing is right”. She told the crowd of her feelings for the survivors, “I cared for the complications of FGM; the bladder infections, the cysts of trapped fluids, the obstructed labors. In Paris, I met a girl whose identical twin sister had died at 8 years old while undergoing FGM together.”
Following the Keynote address, Shelby Quast, America’s Director of the organization, Equality Now elaborated on the legalities and illegalities of the practice of FGM and the work that she and Equality Now do around the world. Shelby, also an attorney stressed the importance of FGM being taught in schools in the U.S. She urged survivors to share their stories and speak out about the injustice that was done to them at an early age. Along with Equality Now, Shelby has implemented a monthly conference call among anti-FGM advocates and survivors, where pertinent discussions occur toward the quest for ending the practice of FGM.
Francess Cole, whose pen name is F.A. Cole delivered a moving and inspirational message. Francess, an anti-FGM advocate and survivor shared her emotional story with the public. She told of the sexual abuse she experienced at a very early age; she told of the day her step-mother had her and her sister undergo FGM, and of multiple rapes later in life. Francess assured the crowd that in spite of what she had survived she found and embraced her spirituality and religion. She spends most of her time speaking to and encouraging other FGM and rape survivors to speak out and to not be ashamed. She has started an organization called Life After FGM.
The speeches ended with the speech of the Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation’s FGM Spokesperson, Mariam Bojang. Mariam, originally from the Gambia in West Africa sent out an appeal to the public to support the campaign against FGM. As a survivor, she urged other survivors to come forward and join in the fight against the practice. Mariam who was only ten years old when she was forcibly cut is leading a special petition to the U.S. Education Department on Change.org to allow a lesson on FGM in elementary and middle schools. She is a graduate student at the University of Texas, in Tyler, Texas, aspiring to become an international lawyer.
Giving out the Recognition Awards was one of the highlights of the program. Recognition Awards were given to Dr. Bowers, Shelby Quast, Francess Cole, Aissata Camara, Jaha Dukurah, Lisa Bruch, Hibo Wardere, Eva Flomo, Martha Allen, Fatoumata Kande-Kouyate and Annie Wright. The organization will select eleven recipients each year in recognition of their work against FGM and other gender based violence. Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. is getting the public involved; we are asking the public to send in nominations to be considered for selection by the Executive Committee for recipients at the 2016 Walk to End FGM. The organization will begin accepting nominations for 2016 effective June 1, 2016. Nominations will be welcomed from all parts of the world.
Pop songstress and Juilliard-trained multi-instrumentalist, Kristin Hoffmann composed and recorded a special song to be played at the event. The single, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E, was played, as some participants sang along from the printed lyrics provided them. The lyrics begin with, “So many years her voice was silenced. Trauma scars, a life of pain. A custom born to tame her vibrance; preying on the innocence of girls to satisfy the greed of man, but false power is the greatest lie, and we must heal this wound one step at a time…” The chorus states, “Calling on People Everywhere All Created Equal, it’s time to speak our minds, and change the tides so every woman on this Earth can live a life that’s safe and free. Her dignity will rise, so she can see all she can be. Calling for Global Woman P.E.A.C.E.”
The day ended after the crowd took to the sidewalk and walked the 5K, taking in the Lincoln, World War II, Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans Memorials and the Washington Monument.
A big thank-you to our sponsors: Costco, Giant Food, Inc., Coca-Cola, Eye Images Media, LLC, Natura Foods, Honor Diaries, City Gate and Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church. Our appreciation goes out to all of our partners for their continued support. Our gratitude goes out to our volunteers and organizers who worked tirelessly to help make the day a success.
To view the pictures from the Walk to End FGM 2015, please click on the link below and view.
Save the date: Saturday, October 15, 2016 for the Walk to End FGM 2016!