In 2011, 33 Mandinka communities began Tostan’s  Community Empowerment Program  (CEP) with funding from the Swedish Post Code Foundation, NIKE General Managers, and the Adopt-A-Village Initiative.  Following the CEP modules on human rights and health  as well as several social mobilization activities, 21 communities in Wuli East, Wuli West, and Sandu Districts of URR declared their decision to abandon female genital cutting   (FGC) and child/forced marriage at a public declaration held in the community of Bantunding on December 9th.

The day before the declaration, the community of Jendeh in Sandu Distirct held a press conference and panel discussion to explain their decision to join the movement to abandon these harmful traditional practices.

The Community Management Committee  coordinator of Jendeh, Funneh Jallow, shared at the press conference how Tostan’s CEP has enlightened the community on many issues affecting their daily lives. She explained how they came to a decision to abandon harmful traditional practices after learning the human rights and health perspectives of the practice. The press conference was followed by a skit on the health consequences of FGC performed by CEP participants in Jendeh.

On Sunday morning, the day of the declaration, all participants from the 21 declaring communities as well as additional invited guests gathered in a field for the celebration.

At the start of the declaration, a group of former cutters accompanied by traditional drummers and dancers entertained the public with traditional songs. The village imam officially opened the ceremony with prayers, followed by remarks from Nkoi Wally, the head of the village. He thanked Tostan and its partners for including his village in the CEP and shared examples of the positive changes that occurred in the community during the CEP.

The CMC coordinator of Bantunding, Kodeh Camara, also spoke, sharing how Tostan’s CEP is very important to them because it facilitates the empowerment of communities and allows them to lead positive transformation in their community. She also reinforced that the practice of FGC is harmful to the health of women and girls, and they have decided to completely and unconditionally abandon these practices based on the human rights and health information they learned during the CEP. Kodeh’s speech was followed by a skit on the human rights implications and negative health effects of FGC performed by CEP participants from Bantunding.

To close, Mansatta Kanteh and Satang Drammeh read the declaration statement, which was approved by all communities, in English and Mandinka respectively in front of the 21 declaring communities, the governor of the URR, and other regional dignitaries attending the event.

An additional declaration for the abandonment of FGC and child/forced marriage in the Gambia will take place on Sunday, December 16th in Hella Kunda in the Jimara District.