On Tuesday, February 18, 2020, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation accepted a special invitation from Freedom High School in Loudoun County to teach their senior class students about female genital mutilation (FGM). It began when an assistant Sunday school volunteer teacher asked Angela Peabody, GWPF’s Executive Director about what she does when she isn’t teaching Sunday school. The Assistant Sunday school teacher happens to be a senior at Freedom High School. Peabody briefly explained to her about her organization and the work they do. The student acknowledged that she had heard of FGM, and expressed interest, but they were interrupted when the children and parents arrived for Sunday school class. Two days later, Peabody received an email from the high school senior with her teacher copied on it. She asked if Peabody would be interested in coming to their school to lecture her class on FGM. Peabody was surprised, yet elated that a high school student was actually interested in the topic.
After several emails back and forth, Peabody became familiar with the Social Sciences teacher, Rebecca Visna at Freedom High School. Ms. Visna explained that she needed to obtain clearance from the Principal of the school before she could confirm Peabody’s visit to teach the class. A couple of days later, Visna reconfirmed with Peabody that her visit to the school had been cleared, and her students were excitedly anticipating her visit. Peabody admits, “I was a bit nervous because I did not know what to expect, since I had not taught a class on FGM under university level.” She was pleasantly surprised by the welcome and the engagement the students exhibited during her visit. She said later, “I could not have asked for a more attentive group of students.”
Ms. Visna had collected advance questions from the students the day prior to Peabody’s visit, therefore she was prepared with answers to the advance questions. However the students had their hands up throughout the lecture and presentation. At the end of the presentation, the questions continued to flow from the students. “It seemed as though the students were hungry for more, and could not get enough of learning about FGM.” Peabody later told some of her colleagues.” She continued, “It is encouraging to see the sincere interest a group of high school seniors have about this heinous practice. They want to see it stopped, and actually asked what they can do to help.”
Freedom High School, also known as Freedom-South Riding, is a top-rated public high school in the quiet Northern Virginia City of South Riding, located in Loudoun County, Virginia, United States. It is approximately 25 miles west of Washington, D.C. Although it might be described as being located in Chantilly, Virginia, the school is listed as part of the Loudoun County Public Schools. The school was founded in 2005 with a current enrollment of 1,921 students, beginning from the 9th grade through the 12th grade. They have a 13 to1 student-teacher ratio, and according to state test scores, 83% of the students are proficient in math and 95% in reading. It was not surprising to Peabody to discover those statistics after her visit to the school. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Social Studies, Ms. Visna is in her 4th year at Freedom High, and her 12th year of her teaching career. Last year, the law was passed in Virginia to include FGM in the Family Life Education curriculum, but formal implementations are still in the early stages.