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Home » Ending Female Genital Cutting in Dialacoto, Senegal

Ending Female Genital Cutting in Dialacoto, Senegal


    Female Genital Cutting in Dialacoto, Senegal

    A Celebration of Life and


    1, 140 communities have now abandoned

    FGC in Senegal, representing over 20% of the current practicing


    By Molly Melching, September 23, 2003

    On September 21, 2003, 606 representatives from 202 villages in

    the three rural communities of Dialacoto, Netteboulou and Missirah,

    Region of Tambacounda, gathered in Dialacoto to publicly announce

    their communal decision to abandon the practices of FGC and early

    marriage forever. Dialacoto, a village located 8 hours from Dakar

    near Niokola Koba Park, worked to organize this declaration with

    the help of a local Pilot Committee over the past five months.

    Although it rained in the morning, the skies cleared just in time

    for the event. Dancers, musicians and singers from the Fulani, Mandinka,

    Bassari, Tanda, Diahanké and Koniadjie ethnic groups from

    the participating villages

    began the ceremony with a display of the rich cultural heritage

    of this southeastern region and celebrated with extraordinary joy,

    enthusiasm and determination. Villagers were surprised to see ancient

    and mystical

    headdresses and costumes that had not been used for over 20 years

    as people whirled and danced to traditional instruments and drums.

    A group from the blacksmiths caste, including all of the local circumcisers,

    moved in a slow rythmic dance led by a white haired elder who mesmerized

    the audience with his piercing gaze. Women sang ancient circumcision

    songs but had rewritten the words in Mandinka: “We are abandoning

    a practice that has led to much suffering for girls and women. We

    will maintain our positive practices and say goodbye to those which

    do not lead to health and well-being thanks to our education program.”

    The class participants and Dialacoto youth organization presented

    plays on the harmful effects of FGC and early marriage. The highly

    respected Imam from Dialacoto stated that Islam condemns FGC because

    of potentially harmful health consequences and argued that it should

    be abandoned by all Muslims everywhere.

    The declaration for the abandonment of Female Genital Cutting and

    early marriage that reflected the commitment of the men, women,

    children, religious leaders, village chiefs and circumcisers of

    the 202 villages was read by village women and girls in Mandinka,

    Fulani, Bassari and French. The villagers explained that their decision

    was made after participating in the Tostan education program in

    national languages with support from the Government of Senegal,

    Unicef and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Participants also

    thanked AJWS, the Wallace Research Foundation and the Rotary Millenium

    Club for their support for micro-credit projects and health improvement

    activities in the Region of Tambacounda. The three Presidents of

    the Rural Communities asked that new Tostan classes be opened in

    the many villages which have not yet benefited from the program.

    Guests attending the declaration included the Vice President of

    and two deputies from the National Assembly of Senegal, the Governor

    of Tambacounda, the Representative of Unicef, the Director of Rotary

    Millenium Dakar, many local authorities, national and international

    press correspondents, the Director of Tostan and representatives

    from UNFPA, ASDI and Amnesty International. Large delegations of

    villagers from other regions of Senegal including Ziguinchor, Kolda,

    Kaolack, Thies, St. Louis and Matam attended, as well as a group

    of six Guineans participating in a Tostan training program funded

    by USAID Guinea.

    Speakers congratulated the villagers on their positive decision

    and their commitment to the promotion of human rights and health.

    The Unicef Representative discussed the importance of the participation

    of all members of the community – the Imam, the Village Chief, the

    women’s groups and the youth groups in this noble movement towards

    the improvement of living conditions in the region. He emphasized

    the importance of providing basic

    education and income generating activities for adolescent girls

    who will no longer be forced to marry at an early age and said that

    Unicef will continue to accompany the villagers in their quest for

    better living conditions and

    health in the future. The Vice President of the National Assembly

    expressed her wish to see all villages of Senegal abandon the practice

    in this joyful way, rather than resorting to enforcement of the

    law passed in 1999 by the Senegalese Parliament. The Rotary Millenium

    Club Director offered 22 sewing machines, kits and training for

    the Tambacounda circumcisers to help them with an alternative means

    for earning money. A representative of the Guinea delegation congratulated

    the populations of Dialacoto and hoped that after the implementation

    of the Tostan program in Guinea, they would achieve the same results.

    The Governor of Tambacounda ended the ceremony with an inspiring

    speech which was followed by a communal lunch prepared for hundreds

    of guests.

    The heavy rains began again as soon as everyone had arrived safely

    at their destination, leading people to comment that surely the

    heavens had approved of and had contributed to this historic declaration

    in Dialacoto, September 21, 2003.

    To view BBC news story ‘Senegal Villages Reject FGM’ of Tuesday

    September 23, 2003 please go to