The one day that the world observes the quest to end female genital mutilation (FGM) is February 6th, which was a proclamation made by the United Nations. After several years of observing February 6th as International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, the world has caught on.
Now, a middle school in Hagerstown, Maryland will make history and set precedence as the first school in the U.S. to observe a special day against female genital mutilation. It began some months ago when Western Heights Middle School (WHMS) observed breast cancer on a special day, and asked the students to wear pink for the day.
A sixth grade student at Western Heights Middle School in Hagerstown, Maryland, Amani DeShield approached her principal about the possibility of having a day at school to observe FGM. Although her principal did not know much about female genital mutilation, Amani explained the little she knew about the practice of FGM. She suggested to the principal that the students should be asked to wear purple, the color chosen to signify FGM.
Why would a twelve-year old American student want a day observed at her school for FGM? Amani is an extraordinary girl with a heart of gold for victims such as the homeless and the girls and women who suffer at the hands of FGM excisors. She attended the first Walk to End FGM in 2014 with her parents and siblings. Amani recalls the FGM survivor, Annie Wright sharing her story with the crowd at the walkathon. The survivor’s story impacted Amani that day, and piqued her curiosity about the practice of FGM. She sought the opportunity when her school wore pink to observe breast cancer to suggest that they do the same for female genital mutilation.
Amani waited with patience to hear the final decision from her principal, and the answer came this past Friday. She explains, “The principal came to my class and asked me to see her in her office. I wondered why she wanted to see me.” Her principal told her that she had decided to have the school observe female genital mutilation on Friday, May 13th and make the day FGM Day. In addition, the principal appointed Amani to make the announcement to the student body about FGM Day. Her announcement will be broadcast on the screen in every classroom at Western Heights Middle School.
While Amani, an honor roll student at WHMS does not consider her gesture a “big deal”, Western Heights Middle School is the first school in the U.S. to proclaim a specific day to observe FGM. Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation applauds Amani, her principal and Western Heights Middle School for taking a unique step to raise awareness for breast cancer as well as female genital mutilation.
“It is our wish that students and principals in other schools in the U.S. will follow the noble example of Western Heights Middle School and observe FGM on May 13th by wearing purple each year.” said Angela Peabody, the Executive Director of Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation. Later this fall, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation plans to launch a student-ambassador program in middle and high schools in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Amani DeShield is a great example of a student-ambassador.