On the International Day for the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC), Tostan, an African-based NGO, has announced estimates for what will be needed for Senegal to become the first country to nationally abandon FGC.    

According to its latest field assessments and analysis of recent data, Tostan now estimates that in order for Senegal to work towards a country-wide public declaration for the abandonment of FGC, 340 new communities in Senegal will need to implement Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP).  

The CEP is identified as the preferred approach for the abandonment of female genital cutting according to the Government of Senegal’s Action Plan for Total Abandonment of FGC by 2015.

Tostan’s analysis has looked at the key zones that require activities to propel FGC abandonment, where the prevalence is high and where recent data point to the need for expanded efforts.  These include the regions of Kolda (94% prevalence), Sedhiou (86.3% prevalence) and the Fouta (87.2% prevalence).

Since 1991, Tostan’s three-year human rights-based program has been implemented in 2,451 communities in Senegal.  In 1997, the first public declaration for the abandonment of FGC took place in Malicounda Bambara, a village in western Senegal.  Since then, over 5,500 communities in Senegal (through direct participation in the Tostan program and through ‘organized diffusion’ and ‘social mobilization’ activities) have publicly declared their abandonment of the practice. This included the first regional public declaration in the country which took place on the 20 January 2013 in Ziguinchor, Senegal where 427 communities abandoned the practice.

FGC has been banned in Senegal since 1999, but marked success has been seen at the grassroots level in recent years due to the implementation of human rights-based non formal education.  Public abandonment declarations have been key in measuring that success and act as pledges in front of intermarrying communities and social networks to abandon the practice.

The recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for Senegal, which show the key statistics for population, health, and nutrition as well as the latest figures and trends on female genital cutting (FGC) in country, indicate that 60% of women (aged 15-49) who have been cut, reported to not have had their daughters (aged 0 to 9) cut. This significant reduction supports the changes in behavior and attitude regarding FGC seen in the increasing number of communities who are declaring abandonment of the practice.

“Tostan’s approach to working with communities on human rights and on the ‘why’ around social norms, has led to communities deciding for themselves what traditions they practice that hinder their development.   We hope that our partners, and all those we work with in the international community, can help us to accelerate the movement for national abandonment of FGC in Senegal – we are so close.”   Molly Melching, Tostan’s Founder and Executive Director

“Female genital cutting is ending – the time to become part of this movement is now. In the last two decades, this extraordinary and respectful model that allows communities to learn, abandon a harmful practice, then pass on their knowledge, is sweeping across West Africa.   Knowing that only 340 communities need to take up the CEP for FGC to end in Senegal gives us renewed vigour to support this incredible grassroots movement. If we all support this momentum, FGC really could end in the next generation.”  Julia Lalla-Maharajh, CEO & Founder, Orchid Project

Tostan’s three year human rights based Community Empowerment Program is a nonformal education program working on health and hygiene, child welfare, human rights and democracy, the environment, literacy, and economic development.  The movement is spreading across national borders with similar acceleration and momentum being witnessed in neighbouring countries such as The Gambia and Guinea Bissau.  


Notes to Editors:

Tostan is a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Tostan works primarily in rural and remote areas, delivering nonformal, empowering education on health and hygiene, child welfare, human rights and democracy, the environment, literacy, and economic development.  Tostan is currently implementing its program in Djibouti, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Somalia, and The Gambia.  For more information, visit www.tostan.org

Female genital cutting (FGC) is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical purposes. It is a practice that has no health benefits and can result in serious health consequences including hemorrhage, infection, and in some cases, death.  Up to three million girls are at risk of undergoing FGC each year in Africa alone.  The national prevalence in Senegal is currently 26% of women ages 15-49.

FGC is a social norm enforced by community expectations around marriageability. By having a daughter cut, the family ensures that she will be a desirable marriage prospect. Compared to the health risks, the social consequences that uncut girls face are equally severe: the inability to marry and total ostracization from one’s social group, or ‘social death.’

Public abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) occurs when communities and their social networks hold a declaration ceremony in which they publicly abandon the practice, in front of representatives from all the participating communities, and promote a unified vision for positive change.  The public declarations are attended by religious and community leaders, health workers, government officials, journalists and NGO representatives. The public declarations occur after communities have implemented Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program or have been reached through ‘organized diffusion’ or ‘social mobilization’ methods.     

Organized diffusion is the process that Tostan uses to spread information beyond the walls of the classroom and into families, communities, and regions. All Tostan participants ‘adopt’ a friend, neighbor, or family member with whom they share information about program topics. Simultaneously, the Tostan site village, or Community Empowerment Program ‘center’, itself then ‘adopts’ surrounding communities.  Social mobilization is organized information-sharing through awareness-raising methods on key human rights themes dispersed through radio broadcasts, inter-village and inter-zonal meetings.   Since 1991, Tostan has directly affected over 200,000 people with its program and reached over two million people indirectly.

Orchid Project is a UK-based NGO with a vision of a world free from female genital cutting.   It partners, communicates and advocates to realise this vision.  Orchid Project has today (6th February) launched a new interactive map feature for its website providing factsheets, research, news stories and coverage of the work that is being done to end FGC.
For more information, go to: www.orchidproject.org

For further information, please contact:
Amy Fairbairn, Director of Communications, Tostan
Email:  amyfairbairn@tostan.org
Telephone: +221 77-877-55-13       
Skype: amyfairbairn_tostan