Oliver Chantler: Orchid Project |+44 (0) 203 752 5503 | [email protected]
Today (15th November 2015), over fifty communities in the Kaolack region of Senegal have come together to declare an end to the centuries-old practice of female genital cutting.
The declaration ceremony was witnessed by over 1,000 people, including HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. She was joined by representatives of UNICEF and UNFPA as well as local representatives of the Government.
The Crown Princess’s presence was arranged by Orchid Project, an NGO working to end female genital cutting. It campaigns on the issue, carries out global awareness-raising work and partners with successful projects overseas. Orchid Project’s Danish brand supports an end to the practice and was also represented at the trip.
HRH Crown Princess Mary is a strong voice on the issue of women’s rights and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights around the world. Amongst other roles, she is a member of the High Level Task Force for ICPD, Patron of the UNFPA and Patron of the WHO Regional Office for Europe.
HRH Crown Princess Mary said:
“It is both a joy and a privilege to witness local communities celebrate their decision to stop cutting their daughters. This decision has come from within the communities themselves and this is the mark of true and sustainable development.”
Awa Ndiaye, a member of one of the local communities pledging to end female genital cutting said:
“We were one of the first communities in the area to abandon the practice in 2013. Participating in this public declaration is important to me, to my community, and to all the local communities who are coming together because we have all made the same decision. As a result of this collective action towards complete abandonment, the health of our girls will be improved.”
The communities celebrating today have chosen to stop cutting their daughters after taking part in a human rights education programme run by local NGO Tostan. At the heart of Tostan’s work is the three-year Community Empowerment Program which works with communities to enable them to hold conversations about what human rights mean to them, and engages community members to lead their own social change.
Orchid Project provides the funding for community members to take these discussions about human rights and spread them to neighbouring villages. This is leading to a growing movement of change across West Africa. To date, over 7,300 communities have now declared abandonment in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia.
The declaration included theatre, dance and traditional music from the communities taking part, as well as formal speeches, including from former practitioners of female genital cutting, on why they have abandoned the practice. It marks the culmination of three years’ work with communities.
Notes to Editors
- This declaration took place in the Kaolack region of Senegal, south-east of the capital Dakar.
- Female genital cutting (FGC) is the forcible removal of all or part of a girl’s external genitals. It is most often carried out on girls under the age of 14, and on girls aged between 5 and 8 in over half of the countries it is practiced in. 130 million women and girls are living with the effects of FGC worldwide, while recent UNICEF research shows a further 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the next decade. FGC is not a religious issue and is not a requirement of any of the major religions; it is a social norm, held in place by an entire community.
- There are more details about FGC at orchidproject.org
- Tostan’s human rights-basedCommunity Empowerment Program (CEP) allows community members to draw their own conclusions about FGC and lead their own movements for change. In the CEP class sessions on human rights, participants learn about their right to health and their right to be free from all forms of violence. They also discuss the responsibilities they share to protect these rights in their community. In sessions on health, they learn about the potential, immediate, and long-term harmful consequences of the practice and discuss ways to prevent these health problems in the future. Tostan’s name means ‘Breakthrough’ in the Senegalese Wolof language.
- So far Tostan’s programme has led to over 7,300 communities from Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia publicly declaring their decision to abandon both FGC andchild/forced marriage.