Last Wednesday was International Women’s Day. Women around the world celebrated and observed the day in a variety of ways.
International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG) celebrated the day in an unconventional way. They invited individuals from other organizations to join them in a park in the Southeast area of Washington, D.C. to plant a special garden.
IWPG and their guests gathered in a park called the Mother’s Peace Garden at Mississippi Avenue and 13th Street to observe peace and commemorate women and girls that have been victims of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). “Ban FGM”, as they called the program began at a little past 10:00am and continued until midday. The garden is to uphold the dignity of women and girls worldwide, according to a representative from IWPG-DC. IWPG believes that the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) 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, International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG) was founded by Maria Nam-Hee Kim. A woman with a motherly heart, 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.
Mother’s Peace Garden in Washington, D.C. got its name from a mother whose son lost his life in that park several years ago. The mother and her friend set out to clean up the park and neighborhood, by declaring it a garden of peace. Prior to the clean-up, there was nothing peaceful about the Congress Heights area and that park. Last Wednesday, walking through the park gave one a feeling of peace and calm, as IWPG set up their tables, a large television monitor, refreshments and chairs. There was not a thought about violence or danger; everyone embraced each other with hugs and cheerful introductions. They talked about peace and what it meant to IWPG that so many people had come out to observe the day and help plant a commemorative garden.
Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation participated in the event; representing the foundation, Angela Peabody told the crowd, “International Women’s Day was intended to be a celebration to show appreciation, respect and love towards women for their economic, political and social achievements. As you are aware, the observance of this day began in 1909 in New York City. Now here we are more than a century later, continuing what the many women before us started.” While remembering some of the heroines who have preceded the women of today, Peabody said, “Women such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Margaret Thatcher and countless of women who have preceded us would be proud to know that women are continuing to speak out and work toward equality and against injustices.” She congratulated the founder of IWPG, Maria Kim for spreading peace around the world with her organization.
Following the speeches, the group circled around the body of soil, set aside for the special commemorative garden to Ban FGM. Little tiles of flags, representing countries that practice FGM/C were placed in the soil before each flower planted, to commemorate the women and girls affected by FGM/C from those countries. The atmosphere became gloomy as each flower was planted, followed by applause. A representative from IWPG said, “We are planting this garden for peace to commemorate and represent those affected by this global human rights issue”.
According to organizer, Jeannie V, IWPG plans to upkeep the garden in the park and revisit several times in the year to watch the flowers bloom.