This month, the Orchid Project renewed its partnership with Tostan by extending their funding for a social mobilization project into a second year. Designed to accelerate the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) in Senegal, the first phase of the project began in November 2012 with the establishment of three social mobilization teams. These teams travel to remote communities to share information on human rights and the harmful effects of FGC. The extension of this project will allow the critical awareness-raising activities conducted by the social mobilization teams to continue until October 2014.

During the first year, the three social mobilization teams funded by the project visited a total of 180 villages across the four regions of Senegal where rates of FGC are the highest. Through the awareness-raising meetings that they facilitated in each community, the teams directly reached a total of 10,192 people.

In the next phase, the project is set to build upon these successes and will add new elements to improve the approach. The monthly social mobilization missions will continue, with the introduction of a fourth team allowing 24 villages, instead of 18, to be reached every month. In the first phase, ten intervillage meetings were held, gathering a total of more than 1,150 people to discuss their views on FGC; eight more of these meetings are planned for the project’s second year. New aspects of the project include monthly radio programs discussing the consequences of FGC and six awareness-raising campaigns in schools.

On November 18th, a press conference was held in Kolda, Senegal to mark the official launch of the extension project in the region. The prefect of Kolda and the mayor issued opening remarks followed by an explanation of the project’s history, objectives, and strategies by two Tostan coordinators. The press conference was convened in order to increase awareness about the project’s presence in the area through radio, television, and newspapers. In addition to journalists from six different news stations,  healthcare providers, social mobilization agents, and representatives from other NGOs came to learn more about the project.

The Orchid Project extension will be launched in Sédhiou on November 19th, with the official launches in the northern regions of Matam and Saint Louis region to follow at the end of the month. The social mobilization teams will soon return to the field to continue their 12-day monthly missions.  Tostan is very excited about the Orchid Project’s desire to extend the program and is enthusiastic about the continued impact that the social mobilization activities will have on ending the practice of FGC in Senegal.