Tostan-led workshops on the human rights approach to abandoning harmful traditional practices  are part of the nationwide strategy for the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) developed by the Senegalese Government in partnership with UNFPA and UNICEF. The strategy is enclosed in a National Action Plan (2010-2015), which aims to raise awareness on FGC through Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP).

From June 5-7, 2014 in Ourossogui, Northern Senegal, women leaders, youth, religious leaders, and members of civil society gathered for a Tostan workshop to address and discuss four human rights: the right to health, the right to be protected against all forms of violence, the right to education, and the right to non-discrimination against women.

On day one of the workshop, the 45 youth in attendance presented and explained the right to education. This was also followed by a group discussion on the National Action Plan (2010-2015). One participant, Mamadou Moussa Diaw, a member of the Matam Cultural and Sports Association, wanted to know why the practice should be abandoned. In response to this, Ousman Sow, a local craftsman said “After the training we received from the Tostan team today, I think we should abandon FGC because it can cause death, complications during childbirth, and diseases such as fistula.”

The second day of the workshop was reserved for the 45 women leaders in attendance.  They began by discussing the right to health and the right to be protected against all forms of violence.  Several women such as Diarata Moussa Dia, who has 26 years of experience in public health, have witnessed firsthand the effects of FGC. In addition, Diary Dia of the Ourossogui Hospital declared: “I am ready to continue to raise awareness about the harmful effects of FGC. To take full responsibility, I told everybody when my daughter was a victim of early pregnancy to show that I am as committed as anyone else.”

The final day of the workshop involved 45 religious leaders. The day began with a presentation by Ibrahima Boly, the Assistant to the Regional Coordinator in Matam, on the right to be protected against all forms of discrimination and all forms of violence. This presentation was followed by Abou Diack, the Matam Regional Coordinator, who took the floor to explain that FGC and child/forced marriage are social norms that bare no connections to the teachings of Islam. Alassane Ndiaye Nawel, a Koranic teacher who condemns the practice, added: “The Koran does not recommend FGC; people simply do not know that.”

Overall, the workshop adopted several resolutions for raising awareness, among which include the involvement of magistrates. Participants also recommended raising awareness in mosques and during religious ceremonies. Tostan team members said that all resolutions and recommendations of the workshop should be acted upon to reach the goal of total abandonment of FGC in Senegal by 2015. 

Story by Roland Kongo, Assistant to the National Coordinator in Thiès, Tostan