KOLDA, Senegal – On November 28, representatives from 700 communities in the department of Kolda in southern Senegal gathered to publicly declare their commitment to abandon female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage .  

Of the 700 participating villages, only 23 are currently enrolled in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program   (CEP). The remaining villages made the decision to abandon harmful practices due to organized diffusion—a process of spreading information to neighboring villages and regions through community-led outreach , including awareness-raising events, marches, and intervillage meetings.

Hundreds of the villages present had previously declared their intention to abandon harmful practices after having participated in the CEP or through outreach activities. These communities nevertheless decided to join in the department-wide declaration in order to reaffirm, along with 420 new villages, their commitment to health and human rights.

Following an evening of singing and dancing, the celebration continued Sunday with a parade of nearly 3,000 people from Kolda and the surrounding region, as well as delegations from Guinea Bissau, The Gambia, and Mali.   Participants carried banners proclaiming their decision to abandon harmful practices and youth groups performed plays about the importance of respecting everyone’s fundamental human rights.  

Speakers at the declaration included the Mayor of Kolda, the head of Kolda’s Department of Health, Senegal’s Minister of the Family, and Tostan Executive Director Molly Melching. The declaration was read in Pulaar, Mandinka, and French.  

As the department of Kolda has a 94% prevalence rate of FGC—the highest in Senegal—this declaration represents a monumental step towards Senegal’s goal of total abandonment of FGC by 2015.