Within the first two months of 2013, three public declarations took place, including the first ever regional public declaration in Senegal that brought the total number of communities that have abandoned to over 7,000. This regional public declaration in Ziguinchor, Senegal, like other smaller public declarations, was a result of coordinated outreach efforts, a process we call organized diffusion. Communities who had participated in the program in the region led social mobilization and awareness-raising activities about human rights and the teachings of Tostan’s CEP. This included educating others about women and girls’ right to health and the potential health consequences, both immediate and long-term, of FGC.
Communities in Senegal are bound by the weight of their words, and making an announcement in a public setting reflects endorsement of the new social norm – no one will be ostracized for deciding not to engage in a practice when all have collectively agreed to stop it. It is very important to bring together the whole community to abandon a practice, and we feel public declarations are important in building critical mass for abandonment through collective and public support.
In 2008, a Unicef evaluation examined villages that had participated in the CEP from 1997 to 2001 and had taken public pledges to abandon FGC. It found that, nearly 10 years later, the prevalence of FGC had fallen by more than half in participating villages. This evaluation established a link between public declarations and a decline in prevalence.
As Tostan has always explained and as our external evaluations have shown, abandonment following our program and a public declaration for abandonment is not 100 percent. However, public declarations are critical in the process for total abandonment and necessary for building critical mass, eventually leading FGC to becoming a thing of the past.
“This is vital for future generations and has given us a basis for new behaviors to protect children and women and their physical and moral integrity”
Governor of Ziguinichor, Cheikh Tidiane Dien