By A.M. Peabody
The question asked in the title – could the Walk To End FGM possibly be held in International Geneva? Elisabeth Wilson, my host strongly believes that it can be done within a year or two. The Board of Directors of Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation voted unanimously in our Mid-Year meeting to extend the 5K Walk to other interested cities. However the Board prefers to extend it the year following the fifth of its kind in Washington, D.C., the city of origin. This year was the fourth Walk To End FGM, making the 2018 5K the fifth. According to the Board of the organization, we will be fully prepared to extend the 5K Walk to other cities that have expressed interest in hosting it. So far, interested cities have been Dallas, Texas, Huntsville, Alabama, New York City, London, England and Geneva, Switzerland. Hosting the 5K Walk in Geneva, the European home of the United Nations, UNESCO, WHO and countless of international organizations, Elisabeth assured me that many of these organizations would be invited to participate. With the extension of the Walk To End FGM, the same purple shirts, same logo and branding would be used.
I write this piece from Saint Jean de Gonville, the French side on the border of Switzerland and France. I arrived at the Geneva International Airport this past Friday. It had been several years since my last journey to the Continent of Europe. I had lost memory of the impactful jetlag with which one is left after hours of crossing the Atlantic Ocean. I am thankful for the ability to find sleep easily while airborne. I discovered upon arrival in Geneva, that the piece of luggage carrying majority of my clothing had failed to make the flight, and was scheduled to arrive on the next flight from Paris. At least it had not been left at Washington’s Dulles International. I was with limited change of clothes until Saturday evening when the airline finally delivered my bag to the home of my hosts.
I was invited by Elisabeth Wilson and her companion, Holger Postulart to visit Geneva last year. Elisabeth is a 2016 Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation Award Recipient for her relentless work against female genital mutilation (FGM). She and Holger are Co-Founders of the international organization, Global Alliance against Female Genital Mutilation, based in Geneva. I was unable to make that visit last year, therefore I asked for a rain check. The intent of the invitation was for Global Alliance against FGM (GA-FGM) and Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation (GWPF) to enter in talks about possible collaboration and partnership on issues surrounding FGM. Part of the collaboration would include the Walk To End FGM Geneva.
The GA-FGM is a French Non-Government Organization (NGO) created in 2010. In a 2016 interview with GWPF’s Newsletter, Elisabeth remarked that after attending many conferences about FGM, the commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM as celebrated in Geneva, she and Holger realized two things; the FGM community was in search of more dynamic synergies amongst organizations. These organizations were complaining about the lack of visibility, communication, collaboration and specifically comparable scientific data. “We assisted many times to annual meetings, gathering FGM experts, the diplomatic community and concerned Swiss authorities invited by the same NGOs. Something crucial was also missing; the presence of the general public.” Holger is a Specialist in Adult Education and Training, while Elisabeth is a former Broadcast Journalist. “After several mandates as consultants at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, in Education and Communication, we both decided to create the GA-FGM.” Holger is the Executive Director and Elisabeth is the Chief of Communications.
According to Wilson, they wanted to give a voice to the voiceless (all grass-roots NGOs) that are active in the field in Africa and across the world. They wanted a voice for NGOs with no communication capacity, no visibility, little access to internet, but with well-structured FGM platforms. Wilson added, “NGOs willing to disseminate and share their results, best practices and therefore avoid duplicates. We noticed a critical lack of access to scientific resources, up-to-date data and comparable statistics. Moreover, the mobilization campaigns never really reached the general public. The FGM-fighting community needed a paradigm shift and a new collaboration approach, in order for competent small structures to be heard and be part of the FGM-fighting community.”
Shortly after the Global Alliance against FGM was established, the Pastoralist Child Foundation in Kenya, founded by the American-Canadian humanitarian, Sayyidah Garrett became a member of the Alliance. The GA-FGM is described as a German-Canadian initiative; Holger is German and Elisabeth is Canadian-Haitian, who was born in what was called the Belgium-Congo. Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation is honored to have been invited to become a member organization of this prolific Alliance.
Last Friday evening, fresh off the flight, I was the guest of GA-FGM at Cinema Le France Thonon Evian for a viewing of the film, The Man Who Mends Women. The story is about Dr. Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Founder and Director of the Panzi Hospital in the DRC, Dr. Mukwege, in 1999 discovered that many of his female patients had been genitally destroyed by either bayonets, or rubber burns or gunshots, and brutally raped. Mukwege set out to repair the damaged genitals of his patients, and he became known as the doctor who mended the women. The screening was sponsored by the International Rotary Club, in collaboration with the GA-FGM here in Geneva. Following the screening, world renowned Urologist, Dr. Pierre Foldes and Frederique Martz made an appearance and addressed the audience about their own work in repairing women who have been subjected to female genital mutilation. Mukwege had dedicated his time to repairing women’s damaged genitalia as the result of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; yet the similarities cannot be missed with Foldes and Martz repairing women’s mutilated and violated genitalia and the psychological damage with which they are left following FGM. The theatre was packed with equal number of men and women. Both Dr. Foldes and Ms. Martz are 2017 Award Recipients of the Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation Awards. I was impressed to see how many questions the audience had, once the floor was opened for Q&A. Also in attendance was the President of GA-FGM of Mali, Mrs. Christine Sidibé, and expert in women’s rights and the right to education whom I had the pleasure of meeting. I hesitated to make a statement when I was invited to do so, since my limited knowledge of French dates back to my secondary school years. However Elisabeth assured me that everyone in the audience was fluent in comprehending the English language. I was equally honored and flattered for the opportunity.
Elisabeth has invited me to participate in a lecture tonight when she presents her class with techniques of Communications in Media Relations. On the afternoon of November 7th, I will join GA-FGM at the Palais des Nations in Geneva for an exhibition, What Does Peace Look Like? I look forward to both events. I wonder what would the Walk To End FGM Geneva look like?
If you have any ideas, I invite you to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you think about the Walk To End FGM held simultaneously in Geneva and other cities around the world. We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
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