Special Feature of the Month:

GWPF Celebrates A Decade: A Look at the Last Ten Years

By A.M. Peabody

GWPF sends well wishes, health, safety, love, and warmth to our readers around the world during this critical time of COVID-19.  Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. 

A little more than decade ago, my sons urged me to start a nonprofit organization.  They had observed my passion against female genital mutilation (FGM) and other violent acts against women and girls.  Although I was using my journalistic skills to advocate against such issues, they thought I would be more serviceable to women and girls if I worked from a nonprofit establishment.  I used my lengthy commute time to conduct my own private survey; I asked everyone with whom I sat, whether it was in a commuter bus or Metrorail, “Have you heard of something called female genital mutilation?” I did get some strange looks at the time; moreover, they were interested in hearing what I had to say.  I realized that at the end of each day of my commute, I had informed at least two people about the practice of FGM.  But I did not want to go through establishing an organization, when all I wanted to do was assist women and girls against violence.  However each time I expressed my frustrations and anger over FGM, domestic violence, or sexual assault, my sons reminded me how more effective I would be if I worked through an organization.

I finally stopped fighting the calling and made the decision to establish an organization.  I had no idea what it entailed until I began the process.  I was fortunate to have an attorney nephew, who offered to assist with setting up the corporation and the other legalities without charge.  Harvin did not only set up the corporation, but he offered legal advice on selecting board members, and what risks not to take in my selections.  I called on Amie Jallah to serve on the board, since she was familiar with the nonprofit world, and I could trust a cousin whom I had known my entire life.  After much research, paperwork, and training from both Harvin, Amie, and my sons, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation (GWPF) was born in March 2010.

That was ten years ago, and as I reflect, I must admit that my sons were right.  Since the year 2010, we have watched advocacy against FGM take on new meaning; with the persistence of advocates, several states in the U.S. have had FGM criminalized.  GWPF was helpful in getting its home state, Virginia to have FGM criminalized.  Virginia was only the 25th state in 2017 to pass that law, and to date, there are approximately 36 states with laws against FGM.  In the last ten years, we also witnessed some African countries ban the practice of FGM, such as Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and the Gambia.  GWPF took on the former President of Liberia on her refusal to have the practice of FGM banned in that country.  In 2014, GWPF ventured to where no other organization had gone before; we held the Walk To End FGM.  The following year, we began to recognize advocates and activists with the Global Woman Awards.  We became one of the founding member organizations of the US End FGM/C Network a couple of years later.  We petitioned the Department of Education to have FGM included in their curriculum.  While we were unsuccessful on the Federal level, we were successful in Virginia, thanks to Former Senator Richard Black.  We collaborated with the U.S. Department of Justice in presentations, roundtables, and workshops.  We launched a support group for FGM survivors and girls at risk of it.  We sponsored restorative surgeries of women.  We trained school nurses, communities, and law enforcement on FGM.  We helped protect girls from the danger of FGM, both here in the U.S. and abroad.  We partnered with other like-minded organizations, such as Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press, Inter-African Committee, the Milken Institute for Public Health at George Washington University, and Sahiyo.

As GWPF reflects on the last ten years, the world has made great strides in the campaign against FGM.  However there is still a vast territory to cover; as I write this piece, approximately 8000 girls have already been excised today around the world.  Hopefully the restrictions of COVID-19 will help prevent them from the practice.  The United Nations has earmarked the year 2030 to end the practice of FGM.  That leaves us with only ten years to accomplish that order.  Within the next ten years, will GWPF be celebrating, not only its 20th anniversary, but the end of FGM as well?  Optimistically, how I wish, hope and pray that we will, but realistically, I believe we will have made far more strides but will still have additional work toward ending FGM.  What we advocates can do is continue our relentless work toward the goal, educating one person, or one community at a time.  It is a slower process, but it is a surer one toward the goal of ending it.

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