On Sunday 11 November 2018, a historic event was held in Goumbayel, in the region of Tambacounda, Senegal. 162 communities from the Bala, Koulor and Diankémakha districts – made up of Mandé, Pulaar, Soninké and Wolof ethnic groups – came together to publicly declare the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child marriage, and show their commitment to the growing human rights movement in West Africa.
On the day, a range of actors from across the community came together for the declaration ceremony, including: village chiefs and imams; women and youth; school teachers and pupils; healthcare workers and artists. They made this important commitment in the presence of administrative and local authorities, such as the Sub-prefects of Bala and Koulor along with their deputies, and the Mayors of Goumbayel, Koulor, Komoti, Koar, Bala and Kothiary. Representatives from Tostan’s National Coordination in Senegal, the State Directorate of Family and Protection of Vulnerable Groups and the press (print, radio and television) also attended.
The community which lay host to the declaration was Goumbayel, a village located in the district of Bala, approximately 80 kilometres from Tambacounda. Community members mobilized to provide food and animation for the celebration. The village is said to have “vibrated to the rhythm of folk dances and to the music of traditional artists” (Malick Niang, Tostan Senegal). Young people took centre stage by performing dances, songs, poems and sketches about the importance of abandoning these age-old practices.
Tostan has recently completed the Community Empowerment Program in 42 communities in the Goudiry department, from 2016-2018. This is thanks to the support of philanthropic partners Social Investors and Cartier Philanthropy. Social mobilization activities supported by the Tostan Senegal zonal office in Tambacounda ensured the diffusion of information into than 100 neighboring communities, leading them to also join this public declaration. All of the communities, made aware of the negative impact of FGC and child marraige on the health and lives of girls and women, decided to abandon these practices together. On the day, they read the official declaration text in four languages: French, Pulaar, Soninké and Mandingo.
The event was a huge success, with nearly 900 community members and guests present. Tostan looks forward to celebrating another public declaration on November 25, 2018 in Linkering, Kolda region. The movement for human rights is rising from the grassroots!