On Sunday 13th May 2018 in Diongto, Senegal, 50 villages from the Matam region held a public ceremony to declare the abandonment of the traditional practices of Female Genital Cutting (FGC), Child Marriage and Forced Marriage. This moment marked a powerful social shift for these rural communities as they made a decision to ensure the wellbeing of future generations of girls, women and whole communities. As well as demonstrating their voice to nearby and interconnected communities, their declaration also reached the ears of Senegalese politicians and international organizations. In the audience sat the Governor and other administrative authorities of the Matam region, prominent religious leaders and representatives from UNFPA, UNICEF, and The Orchid Project.  

15 of the communities participating in the declaration had experienced Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), in which they learned and debated about human rights, health, hygiene and leadership. Since 2012, Tostan has partnered with The Orchid Project in this region on a Social Mobilization Program, within which Social Mobilization Agents (SMAs) from local communities run awareness-raising tours in neighboring communities to share information about FGC and other harmful practices. SMAs open up a dialogue across communities through activities such as sharing seminars, inter-village meetings, radio broadcasts, school campaigns and media coverage. 

Author: Isabelle Wheeler. Video credit: UNICEF.