Tostan’s contribution to Senegal’s success in accelerating the movement to end female genital cutting (FGC) has been recognized in a new UNICEF publication (pp. 27-29) which provides “evidence of positive results” from UNICEF-supported initiatives in the field of child protection.

Tostan, UNICEF, and the Government of Senegal have worked in partnership since 1997 to implement our three-year Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in communities across the country, with our human-rights based approach being endorsed by the government’s National Action Plan for the Abandonment of Female Genital Cutting 2010-2015. According to the report, the implementation of the CEP, in conjunction with legal and policy efforts at a national level, “has led to a movement calling for abandonment of [FGC] in thousands of communities in all the regions where it is practised”. The study recognizes that communities choosing to abandon the practice and transform the social norms surrounding it do so of their own volition.

The case study demonstrates the sustainability of the Tostan model through reference to two evaluations. The first, carried out in 2008, studied villages that had taken part in the CEP and declared their abandonment of FGC in the late 1990s. Almost a decade after taking this step, “the prevalence of [FGC] had fallen by more than half in the participating villages.” A second evaluation, carried out in 2010 and commissioned by UNICEF, showed that in participating villages who had declared in 2008 “only 24 per cent of women who had been cut intended their daughters to undergo [FGC],” compared to 44 percent in communities who had not taken part in any Tostan activities. While the practice continues in declaring communities, the drop in prevalence in communities who had participated in the CEP and abandoned FGC as a result shows a clear “link between public declarations and reduction in prevalence.”

The growing momentum behind the abandonment movement was also acknowledged by the UNICEF case study which says that the “abandonment of [FGC] is approaching national scale” in Senegal. Declarations have also taken place in seven countries where Tostan works across West and East Africa. The Tostan approach has informed a technical note on the “elements necessary for [FGC] abandonment in one generation” and Senegal’s success in this area is seen as a source of lessons for other countries, having been incorporated into governments’ program design through the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C.

The case study also recognized that the benefits for communities participating in the Tostan program reach far beyond the abandonment of FGC into the broad areas of democracy, human rights, accountability, problem-solving, health and hygiene, and conflict management and promotes positive practices such as birth registration, maternal care, the use of mosquito nets and latrines, and encourages the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The CEP has also been made increasingly inclusive, meaning that, “everyone in a community, including men, benefits from the programme.”