The Student News Site of Taipei American School




The Digni-fight for PTA speaker grant


In early March, siblings Tatiana (11) and Oliver F. (10) sat down in a meeting with the PTA to request funding for a guest speaker that would be brought into the school through their club. This was the first time a student club has ever presented to the PTA about monetary requests. Tatiana, president of FGM (female genital mutilation) awareness and prevention club “DigniFight,” alongside sponsor Ms. Lin (English Department), proposed to invite renowned FGM (female genital mutilation) victim and speaker, Waris Dirie, to speak in the upcoming school year.
A week after this proposal, Dirie’s organization contacted DigniFight in apology that Dirie will not be able to travel to Taiwan to speak for at least 2 years. However, DigniFight is now in the process of brainstorming other speaker and presentation ideas.
Bringing a speaker like Dirie to TAS would cost approximately 12,000 to 14,000 USD, but Upper School Principal Dr. Hartzell has stated that if Dignifight can obtain half of the funding from the PTA, he will find the money elsewhere for their cause.
During the meeting, PTA President Jessica Lim mentioned the rarity of PTA support for student-led guest speaker proposals, as the speaker approval process is usually considered and discussed by the school principals and teachers in accordance to an aspect of the academic curriculum. In order to have scheduled this meeting, Tatiana sought approval from Upper School principals Dr. Hartzell and Mr. O’Rourke beforehand and emailed the PTA a formal proposal enlisting goals, background information, reasons for the speaker’s significance, and the potential impact of her speech on the school.
Tatiana created DigniFight, a club that supports the Desert Flower Foundation, in her sophomore year. “The club is mainly based on fundraising, education, and raising awareness on FGM,” she said. “8000 girls are mutilated a day and a third of those girls die.” In many cultures, female genitalia is considered unclean, therefore girls with non-mutilated genitalia are socially equivalent to prostitutes. Through the Desert Flower Foundation, DigniFight is currently sponsoring Fatmata Kamara, a 6-year-old girl who lives in Sierra Leone. Through sponsorships like these, girls receive access to medical care and monetary support for her family, as well as protection from FGM and arranged marriage.
Tatiana hopes that bringing a powerful speaker to TAS will raise awareness, not only on FGM, but also on the issue of gender inequality. “The topic of FGM is kind of controversial because it’s related to a very specific part of the body. We would have to look at the audience and see who would listen to her speak,” she said. While the Upper School will be able to discuss this topic freely, she hopes that the Lower and Middle Schools will be able to learn more about gender inequality and having the courage to stand up for yourself through hearing a story of someone who has gone through FGM firsthand.
Dr. Hartzell shared his thoughts on the sensitivity of the subject with us. He said, “I don’t ascribe to the idea that at some point you get old enough [to deal with mature topics]. Developmentally, common sense would dictate that you wouldn’t have Lower School learn about it per se, but I don’t know what we would be ‘protecting’ Upper School students from. Who are we protecting them from? The ideas? The reality of the world? It’s different and it’s for mature audiences but I don’t think it would be controversial. The thought of talking about sexual organs is taboo but if you think about it, why? We teach Sex-Ed in ninth grade. To me, it’s not controversial at all but I can understand if someone would be uncomfortable with the topic.”
The PTA will be discussing all proposals received in accordance to their budget, as well as talking to the parent body about bringing someone in as a visiting speaker next school year. Currently, the World Literature curriculum already includes Desert Flower, an autobiography by Dirie. The film Desert Flower was also well-received in the past two years as part of the African American Film Festival. If the speaker can be approved, Ms. Lin hopes to further implement the topic of FGM into the English curriculum. “If the PTA says no, we’re moving to crowd fundraising and moving outside of TAS,” said Tatiana. “But I think it will be really beneficial to the community to have [someone so influencial speak].”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All THE BLUE & GOLD Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *