From April 23-26, 2013, Tostan provided training for representatives from three government ministries and 27 local NGOs in Guinea-Bissau on its proven human rights-based approach for facilitating the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage. The training took place in Canchungo, Guinea-Bissau and was requested by the National Committee for the Abandonment of Harmful Practices (CNAPN), a government-led group of NGOs working to promote the end of these practices.
The CNAPN requested the training after 144 communities in Guinea-Bissau publicly declared the promotion of human rights and the abandonment of harmful practices in late 2012 and early 2013. These communities had participated directly or indirectly, through organized diffusion, in Tostan’s three year human rights-based Community Empowerment Program (CEP).
Oumou Diop, a program expert who works with social mobilization and communications with Tostan in Senegal, led the group through discussions on the human rights approach in the CEP, the social norm theory of FGC, international human rights instruments, and the organized diffusion strategy for abandonment. Oumou led the four day training using a participatory style similar to that used in the CEP, guiding discussions and giving everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. When discussing violence against women, participants were encouraged to share examples of how they had observed this issue in their own communities.
On the third day of the training, six women from Tostan partner communities that had declared an end to harmful practices several months earlier came to participate, giving the NGO representatives the chance to hear their perspective on the program and on abandonment. Working in groups, the community members shared how learning about human rights had changed the way they thought about certain aspects of their lives: how some practices improved overall wellbeing and how others did not. They were also able to share with the participants their individual village’s experience with abandonment, and the challenges they were able to overcome leading up to the declaration.
The training helped spread awareness among organizations working to promote an end to FGC and child/forced marriage in Guinea-Bissau about the role human rights can play in encouraging communities to abandon these harmful traditions.
In response to the growing international demand for training on the Tostan approach, Tostan has launched a project to formally start a Tostan Training Center in Thies, Senegal in 2015.