Tostan’s work was recently featured by the prominent Swedish journal, Dagens Nyheter. We’ve included an excerpt translated into English below. You can access the article in Swedish here, or download Tostan’s full English translation here.
The women’s colorful tunics and headscarves stand out in stark contrast to the barren and dusty desert landscape that lie on the outskirts of the village of Younoufere in northern Senegal. At midday it is unbearably hot, but the women’s meeting begins with singing and dancing. They then roll out their mats in the shade of two big neem trees. Some have carried their plastic chairs from their own huts.
Mariata Diallo begins to speak. She clearly states something almost too good to be true. The women have collectively decided that it is best to put an end to the traditional practice of female genital cutting. In a solemn ceremony, they will turn their backs on a practice during which the clitoris and labia of girls is removed, often before the age of two — a practice they thought was necessary — a tradition which was passed down from mother to daughter for generations.
“We will step forward one by one and defend this decision,” says Diallo.
One hundred and twenty other communities in the conservative Muslim area, known as the Fouta, have also decided to join in this
collective declaration along with Younoufere.
The women enthusiastically plan for a celebration with thousands of participants who will publicly declare their decision to end FGC. Only a few years ago, a similar event would have been totally
“The tradition was perpetuated without us ever questioning it. We assumed that these practices were required by our religion. But when we asked the Imam about this, we were told that there is nothing in the Koran that says girls must undergo this operation,” says Haby Fary Sow.
The women learned that the practice can have significant health consequences.
“The turning point came when we learned about human rights. That’s when we decided that FGC is a violation of children’s rights. We also realized that some of the complications we had experienced during childbirth were most likely due to FGC.”
When the women finally started talking to each other, it was as if a button was pushed. Everyone had an experience to relate.
“I put a lot of time and thought into this decision. It’s terrible that so many women have suffered, but there’s no point feeling guilty about it because we were doing what we thought was right. Instead, I now feel proud to be involved in this decision to speak out,” says Lourel Sow.
She keeps her daughter Souadou, nine months old, in her arms.
“My daughter, and her future children and grandchildren, will be able to avoid the health problems caused by this tradition,” she continues.
Like what you’ve read? Download the entire article in English* here.
*Translation by Tostan
The original Swedish version written by Mia Holmgren
Photos by Lotta Hardelin