MALA at the UNCSW 63rd Session: Addressing FGM in the USA- Safeguarding Survivors and Potential Victims

MALA will host a parallel event on “Addressing FGM in the USA: Safeguarding Survivors and Potential Victims.” This panel will take place as part of the 63rd annual meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

In January of 2018, the World Health organization reported that over 200 million women and girls alive today are survivors of Female Genital Mutilation and/or cutting (FGM/C). While some reports indicate that the percentage of women and girls who undergo FGM/C has decreased on a global scale, the number of women or girls who are survivors, or at risk of FGM/C in the United States, is estimated to have nearly tripled since 1990. On an international scale, those statistics are staggering. What makes this issue even more prevalent is that in the United States alone, nearly half a million women and girls face the threat of being cut without their consent. This panel convenes survivors, policy makers, non-profit leaders, and community organizers to help facilitate the dialogue on what necessary steps are needed to ensure ‘zero tolerance’ towards FGM for both survivors and at-risk victims.

Confirmed Panelists:

Mary Franson, Minnesota House of Representatives

Minnesota State Representative Mary Franson was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2010 and won re-election in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. Representative Franson represents House District 08B, which encompasses the northeastern portion of Douglas County and the eastern half of Otter Tail County. Currently, she serves on the Health & Human Services Finance Committee, the Higher Education Finance & Policy Committee, and is the Republican Lead for the Early Childhood Finance & Policy Committee.

Representative Franson is a strong advocate for the protection and care of children. During the 2017 Legislative Session, Representative Franson learned about an incident involving two young Minnesota girls who were taken by their parents to Michigan to have the barbaric procedure known as “Female Genital Mutilation” performed upon their bodies. With Minnesota law silent on the subject of criminal liability for parents who force their children to undergo this procedure, Representative Franson authored a bill to hold parents accountable for such actions. This legislation passed the Minnesota House 124-4. Unfortunately, due to outside pressure, the bill did not receive a hearing in the Minnesota Senate and did not become law.

This year, Representative Franson has reintroduced the same legislation. The threat of female genital mutilation remains a very serious issue facing Minnesota. Representative Franson believes a clear message must be sent to parents that there are consequences for having this procedure performed on their daughters. She is working diligently this year to get the bill passed through the House and Senate so that it can be signed into law by the governor. Prior to being elected to the legislature, Representative Franson, a mother of three, ran her own childcare business. She lives in Alexandria with her two school-aged boys.

Mariya Taher, Co-Founder- Sahiyo

Named one of the six experts on female genital cutting (FGC) to watch by NewsDeeply.com , Mariya has worked in the anti-gender violence field for over a decade in research, policy, program development, and direct service. She received her Master of Social Work from San Francisco State University in 2010 where she pursued a qualitative study titled, “Understanding Female Genital Cutting in the United States.” Since then, she has worked on the issue of domestic violence at W.O.M.A.N., Inc., Asian Women’s Shelter, and Saheli, Support and Friendship for South Asian Women and Families, and was part of the Women’s Foundation of California Women’s Policy Institute. In 2015, she cofounded Sahiyo, an internationally recognized, award-winning organization to empower Asian communities to end female genital cutting. Mariya also sits on the inaugural steering committee for the US End FGM/C Network. In Massachusetts, Mariya works with the Women’s Bar Association to pass state legislation that would ban FGC and create education and outreach programs for survivors. She also serves as Narrative Liaison at Topos Partnership, a research and communication firm dedicated to understanding the cultural common sense on how to bring about progressive change. The Manhattan Young Democrats named her a 2017 Engendering Progress honoree and ABC news did a special feature on her, entitled: Underground: American Woman Underwent Female Genital Mutilation Comes Forward. She is also a prolific writer in fiction and nonfiction with essays and short stories appearing on NPR, Ms. Magazine, HuffPost, The Fair Observer, Brown Girl Magazine, Solstice Literary Magazine, The San Francisco Examiner, The Flexible Persona, Cecile’s Writer’s Magazine, and more.

Andrea G. Bottner, J.D., Senior Advisor- Independent Women’s Forum

Political consultant Andrea G. Bottner, founder of Bottner Strategies, LLC, is an expert in women’s issues and has earned the respect and admiration of some of Washington’s most influential policy makers. Bottner Strategies, LLC, works with advocacy groups, political organizations and private clients to offer a broad range of services, including strategic political planning, message creation and coalition building, among others. Currently, she is a senior advisor to Urban Swirski & Associates, the Independent Women’s Forum, as well as RightNOW Women.

Bottner served at the U.S. Department of State as Director for the Office of International Women’s Issues. Hers was a powerful voice that helped shape foreign policy related to the political, economic, and social advancement of women worldwide. She has addressed more than a dozen delegations on women’s rights in the Middle East, South America, and various European countries. She has also had numerous speaking engagements at international organizations such as the Dead Sea Institute in Amman, Jordan, the International Center for Democratic Transition in Budapest, Hungary, the U.S.-Chile Government Joint Committee meeting in Santiago, Chile, and U.S. Embassies in Saudi Arabia, Bolivia and Poland.

Prior to her work at the State Department, Bottner served at the U.S. Department of Justice as Principal Deputy Director and later, as Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women, where she managed a budget of $400 million and a large staff of attorneys, grant specialists, and policy experts. In this capacity, she visited shelters, law enforcement agencies, and advocacy organizations across the country, assessing and addressing violence against women. As a result of her experience, she spearheaded a $15 million Presidential Initiative that established victim assistance centers in fifteen communities across the United States.

Additionally, Bottner served as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Republican National Committee Co-Chairman Ann Wagner, specializing in the Committee’s national women’s outreach expansion strategy. She began her career on Capitol Hill, serving two members of the United States House of Representatives, focusing on criminal justice issues and social welfare policies. Bottner received her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Delaware and her Juris Doctor degree cum laude, from the University of Baltimore Law School. She lives with her husband and two children in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and is active in her community and church.

Asad Zaman, M.D

Dr. Zaman is board-certified in internal medicine and directs his own practice, Zmedi Group, which consists of doctors who also work locally at Advocate Good Samaritan and Palos Community hospitals. Dr. Zaman graduated from Dhaka Medical College and completed his residency at Weiss Memorial University of Chicago. In 2011, he served as chairman for the Advocate South Suburban Hospital Department of Medicine in Hazel Crest, Ill. Outside of National University, he also works on staff at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., and as medical director at local assisted living facilities.