Welcome to December and Happy Holidays to all of our readers!
The first FGM/C Summit was held in Washington, D.C. last week, with more than twenty organizations represented from approximately thirty or more countries from around the world. The goals of the summit were to share best practices in ending FGM/C and supporting the survivors; to advance a comprehensive multi-sectoral approach to ending FGM/C and providing services to those affected, including healthcare, child protection, education, and law enforcement; to foster increased coordination and collaboration among government, frontline professionals, religious and community leaders, activists focused on protecting girls from violence; to launch an inclusive and vibrant U.S. End FGM/C Network; and to strengthen international movement to EndFGM/C.
Hosted by Equality Now, Safe Hands for Girls, The Wallace Global Fund, The Girl Generation, Human Dignity Foundation and End FGM/C U.S. Network, the End Violence Against Girls summit was a great success.
The summit convened on Thursday, December 1st in an Activist Meeting from 8:00am until 3:00pm with a lunch break, at the State Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. The purpose was to address the role of activists in ending FGM/C. Panelists took the stage in discussions about the work they are doing against FGM/C and strategies on how to end the practice in the world by the year 2030. The activists attending the summit actually believe that together they will end FGM/C in one generation. The objectives of the day were Action, Awareness and Accountability, as Jaha Dukureh, the Founder and Executive Director of Safe Hands for Girls gave a personal testimony of her work, both in the U.S. and the Gambia, her homeland. It was the largest networking event among FGM/C activists and advocates in the United States since the campaign against this practice commenced. The comradery and comfort level among the activists were incredible, as some met for the first time and others reunited.
Thursday evening concluded the day with a reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. In addition to the exceptional cuisine, the entertainment was delightful. One of the fabulous entertainers was Sona Jobarteh, the first female Kora player to come from her family in the Gambia. Jobarteh broke an old family tradition when she perfected the instrument, which had been handed down from her father to only the males in the family. The Kora is a 21-stringed African harp, which is one of the most important instruments belonging to the Manding peoples of West Africa in Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. It belongs exclusively to griot families (hereditary musical families), and only those who are born into one of these families have the right to take up the instrument professionally. The audience was unable to remain in their seats as Jobarteh’s stringing rang across the ballroom.
Speaking at the Thursday night reception, one of the Chairs of the Wallace Global Fund said he will continue to support the campaign against FGM/C. He talked about upholding the family legacy in continuing to help those in need.
On Friday, everyone gathered at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. to continue the discussion in several panels, directed at Activists & Youth, moderated by Maryum Saifee from the State Department; The Role of Educators, moderated by Angela Peabody of Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation; Medical & Service Providers, moderated by Dr. Ranit Mishori from Georgetown University Medical Center; Law Enforcement & Child Protection, moderated by Susan Masling from the Department of Justice; Religious & Community Leaders; International Sustainable Development Goals, moderated by Lyric Thompson from the International Center for Research on Women; Best Practices & Solutions, moderated by Shelby Quast of Equality Now. The Best Practices and Solutions Panel brought together the leaders of each expert working group to present their four Top Recommendations for the year 2017. Those recommendations will be reviewed and presented to the U.S. government to be pursued in the campaign to end FGM/C in one generation.
Prior to the panels taking the stage, the President of the U.S. Institute of Peace, Nancy Lindborg and the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Catherine Russell gave the welcome and keynote remarks. The U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon delivered an address by video, followed by the Assistant Secretary General, Lakshmi Puri. The highlight of the morning was when U.S. Senator (D-NV) Harry Reid, the Minority Leader took the stage and delivered a moving address. He told the audience that he was introduced to FGM/C twenty-two years ago by a colleague through a film. He described in vivid details how he watched an 8-year old girl being mutilated, and his reaction to it. It was then that he decided to take on the work against FGM/C. Senator Reid expressed regrets that after twenty-two years, the United States has not made greater strides in combatting FGM/C, especially now that he is about to retire.
Following a scrumptious lunch, the audience watched a video trailer, which took them through Jaha Dukureh’s journey, from collecting more than 200,000 signatures to convince President Obama to pass a law against vacation cutting to getting the Gambian Parliament and President to ban FGM/C in that country a year ago.
In the afternoon, U.S. Congressman (D-NY) Joseph Crowley took the stage and outlined the accomplishments they have been able to make since they launched the campaign against FGM/C. He commended Shelby Quast of Equality Now and Jaha Dukureh for their work in the campaign. The Congressman became emotional when he addressed Jaha; he said he has a 6-year old daughter, and if anyone did what was done to Jaha as a child…He promised to continue working in Congress with both Republicans and Democrats in a bi-partisan effort to end FGM/C.
Some of the organizations represented at the summit were Equality Now, Safe Hands for Girls, Wallace Global Fund, The Girl Generation, UNFPA/UNICEF, International Center for Research on Women, Tahirih Justice Center, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation, Inter-African Committee (IAC-USA), Center for Middle East & Africa, U.S. Institute for Peace, US State Department, US Justice Department, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Sanctuary for Girls, African Women’s Health Center, Refugee for Women’s Health Clinic, Clitoraid, Georgetown University Medical Center, Integrate Bristol, Pastoralist Child Foundation, There Is No Limit Foundation, the Guardian Global Media to End FGM and many others. Activists from the U.K., Kenya, Gambia, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and other countries from around the globe joined the activists here in the U.S. to collaborate in the strategies to end FGM/C in a generation.