On September 17, 2014, a little over 20 people—including representatives from Tostan, the assistant to the mayor of Kolda, religious authorities such as imams, and representatives from NGOs—gathered for a harmonization meeting at the Governor’s office in Kolda. Khalidou Sy, Tostan Senegal’s national coordinator, opened the meeting with a reminder to participants that the deadline set in the Government of Senegal’s National Action Plan to abandon FGC remains 2015.
This was followed by a discussion on ways to improve strategies pertinent to the abandonment of FGC, such as documenting every community that has publicly declared the abandonment of harmful practices, followed by monitoring of their efforts. Khalidou Sy also suggested that Community Management Committees (CMCs) strengthen their partnerships with departmental management committees, which are government entities, and have better synergy so the flow of information runs smoothly and efficiently between the two bodies. Ultimately, he emphasized that they should not act separately but rather in a concerted effort towards protecting the rights of children.
Having such a diverse group of individuals in the meeting helped to further enrich the discussions and broadened the spectrum of ideas shared. For instance, Dieynaba Diack, the assistant to the mayor of Kolda, and Moustapha Fall, the head of the regional service for youth, advocated for continuous awareness-raising activities. In her own words, Ms. Diack said, “Awareness-raising activities are vital to awaken communities to the harmful effects of FGC and child/forced marriage.” She called for more efforts to collaborate with grassroots organizations, such as Tostan, for more activities to increase the impact of the law.
The importance of involving religious authorities was also made clear during the meeting. Mohamed Thiam, an imam representative, assured the group that people listen to and respect religious leaders, and therefore, the state must try to collaborate with them to implicate them further in efforts to abandon FGC and child/forced marriage. Kadidiatou Gano from the Umbrella Support Unit (USU), an NGO that works closely with religious leaders, former cutters and community members to end FGC, shared the same opinion. From her experiences, communities use the religious argument to continue perpetuating these harmful practices. This leaves no other alternative than to garner further support from religious leaders.
Despite certain differences in opinions, all actors involved left with a firm commitment to contribute their part to make the abandonment of harmful practices a permanent endeavor.