The Board of Directors of Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation (GWPF) convened on December 2nd in their year-end board meeting. Within an agenda of business, their year-end meeting is when the board re-elects seated members and elect new members, if there are any. This year the board elected a new board member. After the required vetting, Ms. Aula A. Mohammed was elected to the Board of Directors of GWPF.
A trained conflict analyst, negotiator, and facilitator, Aula Mohammed is an advocate for marginalized communities. She focuses primarily on women who are peace builders and victims of structural and cultural violence. Aula holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University in Northern Virginia. She is currently working on her graduate thesis in Mason’s Women and Gender Studies program at George Mason University. Aula’s research for her Master’s program examines the role of religion in the empowerment of women and gender equality. In 2010, she was a Fellow of KARAMAH’s Law & Leadership program that broadens Muslim women’s understanding and participation in the fields of human rights, Islamic law, conflict resolution, and organizational leadership. Aula also holds a degree in Health Information Management, and she currently serves as a medical interpreter with the Johns Hopkins Medical International team. Fluent in both English and Arabic, Aula is multilingual, including in most Middle Eastern dialects. She is a resident of Northern Virginia, where she calls home with her two children.
The following is an exclusive one-on-one with Ms. Mohammed and Global Woman Newsletter:
When Aula was asked what motivated her to accept the invitation to join the GWPF’s Board, she made the following statement: “This organization is fully dedicated towards achieving one goal – to eliminate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. When I see such a focus, I also see tangible and positive results. Breaking cultural violence may seem to be an impossible task, but when diverse educational and advocacy efforts are honed in, I believe positive change can be realized.” She continued, “Global Woman has already accomplished so much and contributed greatly towards this goal by creating an educational toolkit for school nurses, teachers, doctors, and police departments. It directly supports victims and survivors. I am honored and happy to be part of such a vital and important effort. I feel I can further support GWPF, contributing to its growth and expansion through utilization of my knowledge, resources and networks.”
GWN: GWPF requires their Board Members to share in the passion for the cause. How do you develop a passion for the work against FGM?
Aula: I have been an advocate for gender equality for over a decade. I have had the passion to support girls and women ever since I was a teenager. My dedication towards this goal shows in my education that I continue to pursue and the work I do. The more I see injustice and the road to recovery and empowerment that follow it, the more my passion grows. However, prevention is my main focus on this issue.
GWN: With such a complex cause, what are some of the best methods you would recommend to address this issue?
Aula: Education, education, and more education. The more GWPF can spread awareness and knowledge on this issue, to new immigrant communities and all relevant spaces, the more likely we will reach understanding. From understanding we can develop collaboration and partnerships with other advocacy and response organizations in the larger GBV community.
GWN: How would you further engage civil society in the U.S. against FGM?
Aula: By conducting social media campaigns; educational seminars and workshops for targeted audiences of faith-based, advocacy, and civil society organizations; participation in DC-based GBV coalitions that focus on awareness campaigns and advocacy with Congress & relevant government departments; utilization of arts and cultural events as a means for awareness raising and fundraising.
GWN: What role are you going to play on the Board?
Aula: I will be heading the fundraising committee, through which I will be engaging with my networks to create a more robust effort towards ending the practice of FGM. I will also represent the organization in quarterly coalition meetings and actions.
GWN: What vision do you have for Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation?
Aula: GWPF is already the only organization of its kind in the United States – focusing entirely on FGM and pulling in all kinds of skills and methods to criminalize this practice in the U.S., educating and supporting victims and their families in various ways. This organization is actually guiding and sponsoring survivors through restorative surgeries, a fairly new path to undoing some of the trauma. Pushing forward, I see GWPF becoming the leading voice for ending FGM in the nation’s capital, establishing engagement with multilateral organizations such as UN Women, and becoming an active participant at annual convenings, such as at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
GWN: How important is it for boys and men to become involved in this cause?
Aula: It is of utmost importance to include men and boys in all dimensions of this process. The core reason behind the practice of FGM is to control women’s sexuality, based on the understanding that men of a given community want this control. We have seen that when men are educated about the harm and pain this practice brings to girls and women – when men understand this human rights violation is being inflicted on minors – they will rally against it. Education creates a space where men can empathize with the victims and potentially question the utility and basis of this practice, especially when they hear it directly from the victims. We must understand that sexual intercourse is very painful for many women who have undergone FGM and it is often the cause of some domestic violence since men have to force their wives to bed. We see many men already joining us in speaking up and working side by side with women in the pursuit of ending this practice. We have also noted that when parents learn that men no longer desire cut women for marriage, then girls will finally be spared from this horrific experience.
GWN: Do you have a special message for the many women and girls that have experienced FGM?
Aula: First and foremost, please know that as your sister in humanity I express my deepest sorrow for the crime that has been committed against you. Second, the only thing I can do as your sister in humanity is to fight against FGM, so to save other girls from this indignant and harmful practice. Lastly, I have joined the GWPF team because I too want to be part of your healing and recovery.
GWN: How do you feel about the plan to eradicate FGM in the world by 2030?
Aula: I feel very positive about eradicating FGM. Like I said before, given the relevant and focused effort put in place, this goal is very realistic and tangible. I am glad that the global community included FGM in the Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving any of the SDGs by 2030 is inspirational, but they are all worthy goals to be stated and worked towards. In the past few decades, the rights and conditions of women have been improved through the increased access to healthcare, education and greater participation in civic life. Unfortunately, FGM is a harmful practice that persists and receives little attention relative to issues identified in the SDG’s such as ending poverty, hunger, and securing the environment. It is only by organizations like GWPF that work in the GBV space, who advocate and educate to raise awareness, will we be able to galvanize the commitment, resources, and mobilizations by all necessary stakeholders to eradicate FGM. Ultimately, I am positive in the prospects that the global community will recognize the need to end this harmful cultural practice.
GWN: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Aula: In 10 years – I’ll be having the same passion and drive to realizing gender equality. However, there will be some difference; more men will be working with me in a world that has a smaller gender equality gap. We have come a long way and we will continue to rise.
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