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160 Villages Abandon Female Genital Cutting and Child Marriage in Senegal

The village of Sinthiou Malème in Tambacounda region to host celebration of 160 villages declaring an end to harmful traditional practices
Press Release: 160 Villages Abandon Female Genital Cutting and Child Marriage in Senegal

Date: December 8, 2004
Dakar, Senegal

The village of Sinthiou Malème in Tambacounda region to host celebration of 160 villages declaring an end to harmful traditional practices

480 representatives of over 100,000 villagers in rural southeast Senegal will join together on Sunday, December 12, 2004, to declare their abandonment of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) and child marriage. The event is the latest in a series of declarations to promote human rights and positive social change at the grassroots level, bringing to 1,527 the number of villages in Senegal that have abandoned FGC since 1997.

Sinthiou Malème, a village in the Tambacounda region, will play host to the celebration of this historic decision. These villages do not look any different than other villages in Senegal - with thatched roofs, bustling open-air markets, and wandering livestock. But for one of the poorest regions in Senegal where FGC affects approximately 88% of all women, these 160 communities will serve as models of what can be accomplished by putting development in the hands of the people themselves.

Their initiative to abandon harmful traditional practices comes as a direct result of a basic education program implemented by the NGO Tostan in collaboration with Unicef and the Government of Senegal over the past three years. Tostan uses a grassroots approach to convey the importance of social and economic empowerment. The modules cover the subjects of democracy, human rights, problem resolution, hygiene and health over a two-year period using a participatory, discussion-based format that does not require participants to be literate in order to learn and act on their new knowledge.

For Sinthiou Malème and neighboring communities, information on the negative health effects and human rights violations resulting from certain traditional practices has translated into a commitment to abandon those practices within their communities. The event will also be attended by a delegation of dignitaries and Tostan participants from Guinea-Conakry.

"Before the Tostan program, I didn't know that women had human rights," said Mariama Diallo, a village participant. "I didn't know that I had rights." By participating in Tostan's program, she and other women in the community have gained the courage to express themselves and unite around common goals that allow them to improve their lives and those of their families. This includes not only abandoning FGC and child marriage, but also assuring regular village clean ups, timely vaccination, registering and maintaining girls in school, pre and post-natal consultations and conflict resolution.

Through a strategy of "organized diffusion" of information, the villagers, with the support of local authorities and health and social workers, organize inter-village meetings and social mobilization activities to raise awareness about new information covered in the Tostan program.

Involving the members of the intra-marrying groups who practice FGC has proved to be an effective means of changing a marriage-centered social convention that has lasted for centuries in Senegal.

Though the declaration is a local celebration, the women of Sinthiou Malème and the other 160 communities are appealing to other Africans across the continent to join in their movement for better health. "The future of human rights concerns more than just this declaration," says Habi Diallo village participant. "We must all stand together."

The mission of Tostan, a 501(c)(3) non-governmental organization operating in Senegal since 1991, is to contribute to the human dignity of African people through a holistic, non-formal educational program in national languages. Tostan provides learners with the skills necessary to become confident, dynamic, and resourceful actors in—and instigators of—the social transformation and economic development of their communities. Tostan currently runs programs in Senegal and Guinea-Conakry, and has also worked in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Sudan. Tostan's program is internationally recognized as a leader in non-formal, holistic education, and was identified in 2003 as a Best Practice program by the World Health Organization. Tostan also works with communities to establish micro-credit projects, to build latrines and health stations, and to train Community Management Committees to continue the coordination of development activities after the end of a project.


Tostan Press Contacts in Senegal (from 08:00-18:00 GMT):
Molly Melching
Director of Tostan Tel: + 221 820 5589
Mobile: + 221 630 0797
E-mail:  melching@sentoo.sn


Tostan
Non-formal education for Africa
BP 29 371 Dakar-Yoff
Senegal, West Africa
Tel: 011 221 820 55 89
Fax: 011 221 820 56 32

homepage: homepage: http://www.tostan.org


wonderful. now on to the US and other "civilized" nations 14.Dec.2004 21:15

circumcised

That's great! Female genital mutilation ends for many African women. This is truly monumental progress.

Now, how about progress in the US, Europe and other "civilized" nations where they mutilate babies genitalia EVERY DAY. It is called "circumcision," though it is truly simply just another form of infant genital mutilation, equally inhuman as many types of female genital mutilation.

Violent attempts at domination continue, but not without resistance...

Visit  http://www.nocirc.org for more info