Why Do Physical Scars Matter? – The BBC Why Factor

By Christopher Gunness

The following story was originally published by The BBC “Why Factor”, and permission was granted by the author, Christopher Gunness to Global Woman Newsletter for republication.

Physical scars can be sources of shame or badges of honor: acquired accidentally or a cry for help. How should we read them, and what do they tell us about ourselves and our place in the world? We explore the practice of scarification, intentional body modification which has been practiced for millennia, where scars denote status within tribal communities and are worn with pride. Brent Kerehona tells us about the type of scarification he has: Ta Moko.

We meet stuntman Andreas Petrides, who has been Obi-Wan Kenobi’s stunt double. He also wears his scars with pride, but for different reasons: they are trophies of his profession. For millions, scars can be sources of embarrassment. We examine the constructs of beauty that might underpin those feelings. We speak to Hemani Modasia, who suffered scarring from burns to 35% of her body when she was a child, and who wishes, ultimately, she never had them. Scars can also be interpreted as a cry for help, transversing the space between the physical and the deeply emotional. Japanese photographer Kosuke Okahara tells us about his project which captured the scars of Japanese women who suffered from self-harm across a period of 6 years.

Former Vogue editor Jackie Dixon tells us the fashion industry is now embracing scars – they are part of the zeitgeist. We spoke to Jackie at a photoshoot in central London, where she was photographing a model for a book she is producing that celebrates scars. The program also hears from Professor Parashkev Nachev, a neurologist at University College London, and Nichola Rumsey, founder of the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England. Parashkev tells us the creation of scars is not fully captured by science, suggesting they are both deeply mysterious and profoundly human. Nichola places scars in a social context, and points out they often render us outliers which, for many people, is challenging and uncomfortable.

Comments and questions to info@globalwomanpeacefoundation.org or call (703) 832-2642

May Special Announcement:

The decision to open registrations for the 2020 Walk To End FGM and the Global Woman Awards this October was delayed, due to the social distancing restrictions of COVID-19.  The Board of Directors decided to plan for a virtual 2-day event this year.  Planning for the 2-day event takes several months, and since there is no set date in the foreseeable future of the country returning to normal public gathering, GWPF has decided to plan for a virtual event.  Within the month of May, the site will be open for registration and setting up teams to fundraise in support of our programs. We will utilize social media and video conferencing in October to host the Global Woman Awards on Friday, October 16th and the Walk To End FGM on Saturday, October 17th.  We will make every effort to have everything we have done, annually since 2014, with the exception of physically walking together.  This year will be different but fortunately for technology, GWPF will still host the Walk To End FGM and the Global Woman Awards.  Stay tuned for the announcement of open registration.  Thank you for your continued support.  

Make Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation Your Favorite Charity in 2020

In your charitable contributions and donations in 2020, please consider Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation by either through the DONATE BUTTON or by sending a check to Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation, 14001-C St. Germain Drive #453 Centreville, Virginia 20121.  Your generous donations are tax deductible.  Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. 

How You Can Help & Support Us

Here are some of the ways you can help and support our programs in 2020: 

  • Donations (including in-kind donations) www.globalwomanpeacefoundation.org
  • Partnering (collaborating in one of our programs and/or events)
  • Joining our Internship Program 
  • Volunteering  
  • Donate through employer payroll deduction (through Your Cause, United Way or the government employee giving program)

Upcoming – Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation’s 2020 Calendar

Please Save these Important Dates

  • Virtual Support Group Workshop – Saturday, May 16th 
  • Virtual Support Group Workshop – Saturday, June 20th
  • Second Quarter Board Meeting – Saturday, June 27th
  • Virtual Support Group Workshop – Saturday, July 18th
  • Vacances Sans Excision – Saturday, August 15th (No Support Group Workshop)
  • Virtual Support Group Workshop – Saturday, September 19th 
  • Third Quarter Board Meeting –  Saturday, September 26th
  • Virtual Global Woman Awards – Friday, October 16th
  • Virtual Walk To End FGM – Saturday, October 17th
  • Support Group Thanksgiving Feast – Saturday, November 21st
  • Year-End Board Meeting – Saturday, December 5th

We will update the preceding calendar as events develop during the Year

The Education Toolkit – Now Available and Downloadable

Our Programs to Support

Survivor Resettlement Program

  • Asylum Assistance
  • Employment Assistance
  • Permanent Residency Assistance
  • Housing Application Assistance
  • Health Insurance Assistance
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Application

Wholesome Organic Relief Program

  • Professional Counseling
  • Support Group Workshop
  • Survivor-only Support Group
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology (OB/GYN) Support
  • Restorative Surgery Sponsorship
  • Physical Therapy

Kids Reach Shield Program

  • Education & Information
  • Understanding of the Practice
  • Cultural Sensitivity
  • Resources

Just4You Program

  • Sanitary Items Distribution to Girls in Sierra Leone and Liberia
  • Scholarships to Girls in Liberia and Sierra Leone

Important Contacts in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area to Keep Handy

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation               703-832-2642

National Child Abuse Hotline                              800-422-4453

Fairfax County Office for Women                       703-324-5730

Montgomery County Abused Persons Program   240-777-4673 (24 hours)

Prince Georges County Child Advocacy Center  301-909-2089

Baltimore City Child Abuse Center                     410-396-6147

Frederick County Child Advocacy Center           301-600-1758

Howard County Listening Place                          410-313-2630

Washington County Child Advocacy Center       240-420-4308

District of Columbia Metropolitan Police              202-727-9099

Arlington County Victim/Witness Program        703-228-7273

Loudon County Victim Witness Program             703-777-0417

Prince William County Victim/Witness              703-392-7083

National Hotline                                                   800-994-9662

April Special Announcement:

The registration for the Walk To End FGM and the Global Woman Awards this October has been delayed due to the restrictions of COVID-19.  We will have an announcement with more information in the next newsletter on Tuesday, May 4, 2020.  Thank you for your patience and continued support.

Global Woman Newsletter Moves to Monthly in 2020

The Global Woman Newsletter (GWN) has been circulated weekly since April 2014.  GWN has shared stories from all aspects with its readers; stories about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) laws, personal stories of FGM survivors, U.S. Federal stories, State Legislators, and, even FGM fatalities in the remotest villages in Liberia.  This newsletter has shared how Nigeria and the Gambia banned the practice of FGM, and it has celebrated the successes of other like-minded organizations, as well as the successes of its Publisher, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation (GWPF) over the last 5 years.  This was all happily done on a weekly schedule.  Now it is time to change the frequency of the GWN.  As of January 2020, GWN will become a monthly newsletter, coming to your inbox on the first Tuesday of each month.  Therefore the first edition of GWN in 2020 will be released on Tuesday, January 7th.  After this week’s edition, there are only 2 more weekly editions, as we close out 2019 to welcome the year 2020.

To share some statistics with you about the GWN, in 2014, only 25 editions of the newsletter were released.  In 2015, there were 31 editions sent out; however in 2016, 51 editions were released, and in 2017 and 2018, 50 editions were released respectively.  This year, 2019, the most editions will be released – 52 editions.  Since the newsletter was launched, a grand total of 234 editions were sent out to you.  GWPF hopes the 12 editions in 2020 will continue the flow of information, updates, news, and stories.  If there is any topic you would like to see GWN feature in the coming year, please send an email to info@globalwomanpeacefoundation.org.

The monthly newsletter will not only have one long story, as the weekly newsletter did.  The monthly will provide updates from the previous month, and short stories occurring in the community, national information in the U.S. and international information, surrounding gender based violence.  GWN looks forward to working with you in the New Year.

GLOBAL WOMAN® NEWSLETTER VOL. 23 – Thursday, November 5, 2015 Special 5K Walk Edition

Walk To End FGM 2015 Is A Success

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation hosted the second 5K Walk to End FGM this past Saturday, October 31st.  After many months of promoting the event and sending out reminders and invitations, the day finally arrived.

For the organizers and volunteers, the day began at 6:30 in the morning as they arrived at the Washington National Mall at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW to begin the preparations of the day.  Daylight had not yet peeked through the darkness as the organizers began to set up tables, chairs and podium for the event.

As the sun made its way into a chilly morning, the guests began to arrive with enthusiasm and a warm embrace of the walk-A-thon.  They claimed their t-shirts and bags, as they greeted one another with solidarity.

The program, MC’d by Chelsia Bhatti and Summer Pearson began on time at 9:00am.  Dr. Marci Bowers, the Keynote Speaker began by saying, “I am incredibly honored to be here as your speaker today. When I say honored, I do so sincerely because I am an outsider, an onlooker, a woman of privilege, a surgeon, an activist, a western educated Caucasian woman. And yet you have invited me and I am truly humbled. I uniquely value my own womanhood—because it also came with struggle, if you know anything about my personal history— and so, I suppose, it gives me special purpose to address this problem of FGM.”  Dr.  Bowers, the volunteer surgeon of the West Coast organization, Clitoraid is also a renowned gender reassignment surgeon in San Francisco, California.  She has been surgically restoring the clitoris of survivors of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) for many years, both in the US and in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Dr. Marci Bowers

Dr. Bowers continued by quoting Civil Rights activist, Rosa Parks, “never be fearful about what you are doing when what you are doing is right”.  She told the crowd of her feelings for the survivors, “I cared for the complications of FGM; the bladder infections, the cysts of trapped fluids, the obstructed labors. In Paris, I met a girl whose identical twin sister had died at 8 years old while undergoing FGM together.”

Shelby Quast

Following the Keynote address, Shelby Quast, America’s Director of the organization, Equality Now elaborated on the legalities and illegalities of the practice of FGM and the work that she and Equality Now do around the world.  Shelby, also an attorney stressed the importance of FGM being taught in schools in the U.S.  She urged survivors to share their stories and speak out about the injustice that was done to them at an early age.  Along with Equality Now, Shelby has implemented a monthly conference call among anti-FGM advocates and survivors, where pertinent discussions occur toward the quest for ending the practice of FGM.

Francess A. Cole's photo

Francess Cole, whose pen name is F.A. Cole delivered a moving and inspirational message.  Francess, an anti-FGM advocate and survivor shared her emotional story with the public.  She told of the sexual abuse she experienced at a very early age; she told of the day her step-mother had her and her sister undergo FGM, and of multiple rapes later in life.  Francess assured the crowd that in spite of what she had survived she found and embraced her spirituality and religion.  She spends most of her time speaking to and encouraging other FGM and rape survivors to speak out and to not be ashamed.  She has started an organization called Life After FGM.

Mariam Bojang graduation

The speeches ended with the speech of the Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation’s FGM Spokesperson, Mariam Bojang.  Mariam, originally from the Gambia in West Africa sent out an appeal to the public to support the campaign against FGM.  As a survivor, she urged other survivors to come forward and join in the fight against the practice.  Mariam who was only ten years old when she was forcibly cut is leading a special petition to the U.S. Education Department on Change.org to allow a lesson on FGM in elementary and middle schools.  She is a graduate student at the University of Texas, in Tyler, Texas, aspiring to become an international lawyer.

Giving out the Recognition Awards was one of the highlights of the program.  Recognition Awards were given to Dr. Bowers, Shelby Quast, Francess Cole, Aissata Camara, Jaha Dukurah, Lisa Bruch, Hibo Wardere, Eva Flomo, Martha Allen, Fatoumata Kande-Kouyate and Annie Wright.  The organization will select eleven recipients each year in recognition of their work against FGM and other gender based violence.  Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. is getting the public involved; we are asking the public to send in nominations to be considered for selection by the Executive Committee for recipients at the 2016 Walk to End FGM.  The organization will begin accepting nominations for 2016 effective June 1, 2016.  Nominations will be welcomed from all parts of the world.

Pop songstress and Juilliard-trained multi-instrumentalist, Kristin Hoffmann composed and recorded a special song to be played at the event.  The single, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E, was played, as some participants sang along from the printed lyrics provided them.  The lyrics begin with, “So many years her voice was silenced.  Trauma scars, a life of pain.  A custom born to tame her vibrance; preying on the innocence of girls to satisfy the greed of man, but false power is the greatest lie, and we must heal this wound one step at a time…”  The chorus states, “Calling on People Everywhere All Created Equal, it’s time to speak our minds, and change the tides so every woman on this Earth can live a life that’s safe and free.  Her dignity will rise, so she can see all she can be.  Calling for Global Woman P.E.A.C.E.”

The day ended after the crowd took to the sidewalk and walked the 5K, taking in the Lincoln, World War II, Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans Memorials and the Washington Monument.

A big thank-you to our sponsors: Costco, Giant Food, Inc., Coca-Cola, Eye Images Media, LLC, Natura Foods, Honor Diaries, City Gate and Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church.  Our appreciation goes out to all of our partners for their continued support.  Our gratitude goes out to our volunteers and organizers who worked tirelessly to help make the day a success.

To view the pictures from the Walk to End FGM 2015, please click on the link below and view.

2015 Walk to End FGM Pictures

Save the date:  Saturday, October 15, 2016 for the Walk to End FGM 2016!