Discussing the best practices for FGC awareness-raising activities

Orchid Project’s partnership with Tostan is focused on contributing to the movement for complete abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) in Senegal. To this end, Orchid Project helps support all the awareness raising and social mobilization aspects to facilitate organized diffusion in four Senegalese regions: Sedhiou, Kolda, St-Louis and Matam.

As the partnership entered its third phase in 2014-2015, the time had come to organize a seminar to exchange ideas on how to build on best practice in the fields of awareness-raising and social mobilization.  This would further enhance the effectiveness of the partnership and help realize its objectives for long-term impact.

On the 27th and 28th of October, 2014, social mobilization agents (SMAs), radio show presenters, the regional coordinators and those responsible for coordinating this project in Senegal gathered at Tostan’s Center for Capacity Building and Sustainable Development (CCDD). Doussou Konate and Baye Demba, two pioneers in the movement to raise awareness about FGC from Keur Simbara, were in attendance—along with other guests from the village—to offer their views on social mobilization.

The get-together was also an opportunity to share results from the 2013 where social mobilization activities reached 10,912 people, over half of whom were women. During this project, Intervillage meetings (IVM) reunited 1,157 people, and 193 local and religious leaders gathered for sharing seminars.

The aim of the two days was as follows: to find a common method of working in each region, which would still be flexible enough to take into account specific local differences.  This would then create an operational strategy better-suited to the project.

Some of the important issues raised were: Which villages should be visited first for the raising awareness tours? How can the radio broadcasts be improved? What is the best way of raising awareness during school campaigns? How should the issue of FGC in an inter village meeting be addressed?

Working in groups, social mobilization staff from each region exchanged ideas on how they implement their strategies, before concluding what were good ideas and which strategies needed further improvement. After a long debate, everyone agreed upon a plan of action that would increase the likelihood of the project’s objectives being realized.

Among the decisions reached, it has been decided that the number of sharing seminars would be increased:  SMAs felt that reaching community leaders (village leaders, religious leaders, chairmen of youth groups, chairwomen of the Women’s Advancement Group), was an excellent idea as these opinion-formers can influence decisions to abandon harmful
practices. Generally, those who were invited to the workshop would be going back to their
respective villages with a lot more ideas and information to share with their communities.

On the subject of radio shows, all the participants agreed on new methods to organize the
shows, including the planning of the program, choosing the topics, picking the guests, and
following up. Finally, SMAs commented that it was important to have more health workers
in attendance to reinforce the health-related reasons for abandoning FGC.

At the end of the two days, the national coordinator for Tostan Senegal, Khalidou Sy, paid tribute to the commitment of all the participants, especially the SMAs who remained motivated despite the difficulties they faced in their respective regions. Baye Demba, from Keur Simbara, was visibly moved as he added: “I have listened carefully to everything that has been said for two days, and the thing I notice is we have a common cause to address the issues before us. I encourage all of the participants to double and re-double their efforts. If we haven’t tried it yet, we don’t know whether it is possible or not.”

By Céline Gendre, Volunteer Communications Assistant, Tostan

This blog is part of a series on the Social Mobilisation project that Orchid Project funds in support of Tostan’s long term Community Empowerment Programme. Social Mobilisation is focused on ensuring the acceleration of abandonment of FGC in Senegal. Teams of volunteers who have already abandoned FGC, called social mobilisation agents, visit and create dialogue with inter-connected communities on human rights and the negative consequences of FGC. Their work aims to spread the message of abandonment and encourage others to join them.

Social mobilisation agents are individual members of the community who have been inspired by their understanding that FGC is a harmful practices, and are eager to share their own experiences with others. Often, they are religious, traditional or community leaders who are widely respected and well-connected, active, influential participants.

You can find out more about Social Mobilisation by clicking here. If you would like to support this work, please click here.