February 6, 2014 was a memorable day for people in Yirimadio. In this district of 60,000 inhabitants, 14 neighborhoods who had participated Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) had decided to publicly abandon the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) on the UN-recognized International Day for the abandonment of FGC.
“We, representatives of 14 Bambara, Fulani, Songhai, Dogon, Bobos, Miniakas, and Sénoufos communities in the Yirimadio CIV district of Bamako, are meeting this Thursday, February 6, 2014, to solemnly declare that we knowingly abandon the practices of FGC and child/forced marriage of girls in our communities.” – The public declaration which was read in out French and Bamananka.
Hundreds of people attended the event on the esplanade of the ‘Stade du 26 mars’ stadium in Bamako, many wearing pink and beige traditional wax clothing with messages on the fabric that read “Declaration of abandonment of FGC in Yirimadio”.
Speeches at the declaration emphasized the importance of the event and the difficulty that communities often have to face in reaching the point of declaring in public, especially in a country where the prevalence rate is 85 percent. Sangaré Oumou Ba, the Minister for the Promotion of Women, Family and Children, said: “The decision to abandon female genital cutting is not easy to make, especially in a suburban area that is a crossroads of all civilizations in Mali, where the perception of social norms differs from one ethnic group to another.”
Abou Amel Camara, National Coordinator of Tostan in Mali also spoke, saying: “This declaration is only a beginning. Others will follow in Mali and will encourage those who doubt to join the movement of total abandonment of the practice of female genital cutting.”
As if in answer to any who were reluctant to abandon and to reaffirm her commitment, Mah Cissé, president of the Community Management Committee (CMC) Federation of Yirimadio, said: “I am here to declare our abandonment of female genital cutting. I am here to stand up and tell the world that female genital cutting is not a good practice. I declare abandonment so that this may scale up in other neighborhoods of Bamako and in other countries.”
In addition to the community members, the event was also attended by the representatives from the Tostan international team and Muso, Tostan’s implementing partner in Mali, other civil society partners and representatives from the Government of Mali including; Mamadou Gaoussou Diarra, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Bocar Moussa Diarra, the Minister of Public Service and Ousmane Koné, the Minister of Health and Public Sanitation.