On Sunday, September 25, 2022, 750 community leaders representing 50 communities in the District of Vélingara Ferlo in the Region of Matam, Senegal, gathered in the village of Maure to announce their collective decision to abandon the practices of Female Genital Cutting and Child Marriage.
Many of the communities had participated in Tostan’s three-year Community Empowerment Program and realized that the consequences of these practices no longer aligned with their aspirations for improved health and communal wellbeing. Women and youth, as well as traditional and religious leaders, then reached out to members of their social network to discuss and collectively agree that any practice which can harm girls and women should no longer be the norm within their extended family.
Despite difficult conditions in the area due to heavy seasonal rainfall, people came from near and far to ensure that the public declaration would mark a historic moment in the growing movement for the abandonment of harmful practices in West Africa. Tostan participants used the event as a platform to encourage everyone to abandon FGC and child marriage, using songs, moving testimonies, and theater to convey a call to action on social media. Each community also delivered a statement signed by community leaders to local government authorities, signaling that their decision was consensual and that a violation of this new “community law” would no longer be accepted.
Supporters of Tostan’s program activities in the Region of Matam include Svenska Petrolum Exploration AB, Mastercard Foundation, and UNFPA.