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Home » 1, 271 Villages Have Abandoned FGC and Early Marriage in Senegal Through Public Declarations Since 1997

1, 271 Villages Have Abandoned FGC and Early Marriage in Senegal Through Public Declarations Since 1997


    1, 271 Villages Have Abandoned FGC and Early Marriage in Senegal

    Through Public Declarations Since 1997

    Dear Friends,

    It was a beautiful, sunny December morning when thousands of people

    arrived in the village of Oulampane to celebrate the end of Female

    Genital Cutting and early marriage by representatives from 118 villages

    in the Regions of Casamance and Kolda. They are members of the Diola

    Fogni ethnic group who have practiced these traditions for centuries

    in this luxuriously green and heavily wooded area of Senegal located

    near the border of the Gambia.

    After participating in the Tostan Village Empowerment Program supported

    by the Adopt-a-Village initiative from 2001-02, followed by the

    Tostan literacy program supported by Unicef and the Banyan Tree

    in 2003, class participants from 20 villages decided to organize

    public sessions to share the new information on human rights and

    negative health consequences of FGC and early marriage with other

    members of their communities. When surrounding villages heard of

    these deliberations, they asked to meet and discuss the issue as

    intermarrying relatives and neighbors that are accustomed to making

    important decisions as a unified group. The Diolas are well known

    for their concensual method of making decisions and all members

    of society had to be consulted before the final announcement was


    on December 7, 2003. Attending other declarations for the abandonment

    of FGC and early marriage in the regions of Kaolack, Tambacounda

    and Kolda over the past 3 years also inspired the participants to

    end these practices in the same manner: a joyful and positive celebration

    of health, human rights and positive traditions of the Diola Fogni


    During the explanations as to why they were abandoning these practices,

    one woman, Terema Diedhiou, emotionally related that her own daughter

    had died following the FGC operation due to severe hemorrhaging

    and her niece had died after prolonged labor at the young age of

    12. Other testimonials by local religious and traditional leaders,

    presidents of the rural communities, women leaders, former circumcisers

    and a representative of the youth groups were interspersed with

    dance, songs and “mysteries of the forest”. These traditional,

    mystical creatures from the Casamance

    had not been witnessed for many years in this troubled area of the

    country. The excitement of the crowd was clearly visible when hundreds

    of children rushed forward in waves to see the unusual masks and

    costumes that they had only imagined in their dreams from having

    listened to around-the-fire stories over the years.

    Speakers also noted that the Tostan program, which emphasizes the

    understanding and application of human rights and responsibilities,

    has also led to other positive effects in the region: peace-keeping

    initiatives, active Village Management Committees, universal birth

    registration, hygiene activities, better health practices, decrease

    in domestic violence, an emergence of women’s leadership and general

    problem-solving initiatives.

    A skit was performed on the dangers of FGC and early marriage and

    the circumcisers threw away the equipment they once used during

    the FGC operation: knives, amulettes, “protective” water

    and specially woven belts.

    Many guests from the region attended the public declaration: NGOs,

    government partners, women’s groups from Ziguinchor and other neighboring

    villages, delegations from the Region of Kolda and from the Gambia.

    Twenty local and international journalists from the television,

    radio and written press interviewed participants and helped to spread

    the declaration’s positive messages for the respect of health and

    human rights across the country. For the first time, the entire

    ceremony was broadcast live on Ziguinchor radio, reaching hundreds

    of villages throughout the Casamance and in Gambia.

    The Representative of the Governor of the Region of Senegal, the

    Representative of Unicef, the President of the Rotary Millenium

    Club of Dakar and a Representative from Inglemoor High School who

    traveled from Seattle, Washington (one of the Adopt-a-Village sponsors),

    all congratulated the 118 villages on their historic and courageous

    decision. The President of the Rotary Millenium Club presented 10

    sewing machines to the circumcisers as an alternative means for

    them to earn a living. Inglemoor High School students donated a

    millet machine to their adopted village, Bona.

    The ceremony ended shortly before 7 PM as the sun was setting on

    these harmful traditions in the Casamance and with hope for a new

    and healthier dawn for the young girls of the region.

    -Molly Melching, TOSTAN