Toubacouta, Senegal– On July 5, 2009, ninety-eight villages in Senegal came together to publicly abandon the harmful traditional practices of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage. This particular public declaration is distinctive from a majority of past such events as none of the villages involved had directly participated in the Tostan Community Empowerment Program (CEP). Instead, these 98 villages, including the approximately one thousand people present at the declaration, were all “adopted” by neighboring communities that had completed the CEP and publicly declared their abandonment of harmful traditional practices in 2008. The “adopted” adults and adolescents learned about the ideas and values presented by the Tostan program of education indirectly through the spread of ideas among their greater social network, embodying the principles of Tostan’s model of organized diffusion for social mobilization.
The 98 declaring villages belong to four rural communities within the arrondissement of Toubacouta located in the Fatick region of Senegal: the Communauté Rurale (CR) de Keur Saloum Diane (25 villages), the CR de Nioro Alassane Tall (22 villages), the CR de Keur Samba Gueye (36 villages), and the CR de Toubacouta (15 villages). These communities are also characterized by their ethnic diversity, consisting of members of the Serer, Mandinka, and Pulaar ethnic groups.
While the villages themselves did not take part in the Tostan CEP, they became aware of the Tostan program after 30 villages in the neighboring community of Nemanding held a declaration of their own in March 2008. Although the 98 villages of Toubacouta had been hesitant to abandon after previous development efforts, the respectful, community-led approach and rising tide for abandonment with the declaration in Nemanding inspired their own social mobilization campaign over a year ago. These efforts have culminated in the Toubacouta declaration attended by representatives of various organizations and community officials alike. Those present included representatives from Tostan, UNICEF, the Ministry of Family within the government of Senegal, and the General Assembly of Senegal. In addition, the Governor of Fatick, the Prefect of Foundiougne, the President of the CR de Toubacouta, and many village chiefs were among audience members, showing both governmental and community support of the decision.
An integral part of all public declarations are the presentations and speeches given by various community or organization members. The Toubacouta declaration included a skit prepared by village adolescents about the health threats caused by FGC and the fact that no religion sanctions the practice. Many individuals delivered speeches, several of which mentioned Tostan, including the Governor of the Region of Fatick, the Director of the Ministry of Family of Senegal, and a representative from UNICEF. Many Tostan officials and volunteers were also present at the ceremony, including the National Coordinator of Tostan Senegal and the Regional Coordinator from Kaolack, as well as various project supervisors and social mobilization teams.
For more informa tion about the practice of FGC, please visit Tostan’s FGC resource page.
To learn more about the theory behind organized diffusion, please click here to read Gerry Mackie’s article entitled “Female Genital Cutting: The Beginning of the End.”