On March 22, MALA convened a panel of experts in New York to discuss female genital mutilation (FGM) in the US.
This discussion was part of the 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and featured a testimonial from Kadi Dambouia, a survivor of FGM. Her testimony preceded an expert discussion on how we can build networks of support and intervention, both at federal and community levels.
MALA President Zainab Zeb Khan introduced the panel. She noted in her remarks that, “As the world celebrates International Women’s Day this month, MALA is standing up for the 500,000 women and girls at risk for FGM here in the United States.” This is the number identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Khan added that “FGM represents one of the most egregious and violent forms of discrimination against women in the world today. Zero tolerance is the only way end to this practice. We must take responsibility for holding ourselves, and our representatives, accountable in the fight to end this inhumane practice.”
The MALA panel of experts consisted of Andrea Bottner, an expert on violence against women, civil rights advocate Sadia Covert, and Susan Masling, a senior trial attorney with the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions section (HRSP) of the U.S. Department of Justice. MALA Deputy Director Ahmed “Flex” Omar moderated the panel discussion.
Together, they outlined the background to FGM in the US and discussed law enforcement efforts. They also explored strategies for reaching zero tolerance in the US. Masling noted that the struggle against FGM must include ongoing education and local outreach. Bottner reminded the audience that it was once a social taboo to talk about breast cancer. She then discussed how the journey to ending that taboo holds lessons for bringing FGM to the forefront of public conversation. Covert described the need to empower communities in making FGM socially unacceptable.
MALA is extremely grateful for the thoughtful, enthusiastic engagement of the audience during the Q&A period. As one attendee tweeted, “the current movement towards education, awareness, and legislation in the US will one day serve as a milestone in the fight to #EndFGM.”