Dakar, Senegal – At a Press Conference held yesterday in Dakar, the Government of Senegal, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) shared the results of a recent government analysis of the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) findings related to female genital cutting in 2005 compared to 2010. According to this 86-page government report, Practices of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting of Girls and Women in Senegal (December 2014),  the country has seen significant decreases in the percentage of mothers who have been cut themselves who have at least one daughter cut, from 20% in 2005 to 6.2% in 2010 — a 69% reduction over the course of five years.

The author of the study, Saturnin Kinson Kodjo, credited Tostan’s approach of non-formal human rights education and community engagement as contributing to the increasing number of communities that are abandoning the practice of FGC.  “The best solution to abandoning FGC is Tostan’s approach of capacity building in communities and public declarations of abandonment,” he said. He recommended the continuation of the Tostan program in Senegal in order to put an end the practice in the coming years.

Tostan’s Chief Executive Officer, Molly Melching, was invited to talk about reasons for the success of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program in helping communities make the decision to abandon FGC. She emphasized the importance of non-formal education in national languages, the social mobilization work of people who have been affected by the practice themselves, and an approach based on empathy and respect. “According to the study, 74 percent of the women surveyed had no level of formal education,” she said. “We believe the Tostan program, outreach by participants, and public declarations for abandonment greatly contributed to raising awareness on this issue.”

The Resident Representatives from UNFPA and UNICEF also reinforced the idea that empowering, holistic and human-rights based education can help end FGC and create and other positive results at the community level. Andrea W. Diagne, Resident Representative of UNFPA, recognized that the progress in abandoning FGC is significant although there is still work to do, commenting that “a holistic human rights approach is the only one that can yield success.”

Tostan has implemented human rights education programs in 1,350 communities across Senegal since 1997 with support from UNICEF, UNFPA and other donors. A process called “organized diffusion,” where Tostan’s participating communities reach out to their extended families and social networks to share their growing knowledge of good health practices and human rights, has led to 5,935 communities in Senegal publicly declaring their intention to abandon FGC. 

For more information, please contact:

Corrie Commisso (Dakar, Senegal): +221 77 6567912 / corriecommisso@tostan.org

Joya Taft-Dick (Washington, DC, USA): 001 202 818 8853 / joyatd@tostan.org