SEDHIOU, BOUNKLING Senegal, 8 November 2009 – Members of Mandinka, Fulani, Bainunk and Diola ethnic groups from 404 Villages in the Department of Bounkling, in the Casamance region of Senegal, came together on Sunday to publicly declare their abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child forced/marriage in the interest of the health and wellbeing of their communities.
For 232 of the villages, this was their second declaration of abandonment and represented their continued commitment to completely abandon the practices and to advocate their abandonment amongst neighboring communities in their department, the region of Sedhiou, in Senegal, and worldwide.
On the eve of the event, villagers gathered in the rural community of Inor for a press conference. Speakers included the Imam of Inor, the village chief, the coordinator of the Community Management Committee (CMC), a representative of the department school inspector’s office, the president of the rural community of Inor, the national coordinator of Tostan, the local health representative, and the mayor of Inor. Journalists from Le Soleil Newspaper of Zuiguinchor asked questions about the department’s decision and the work Tostan had done in collaboration with the communities of the area. Colorfully dressed delegations energized the crowd with lively songs and dances.
The declaration itself drew some 2,000 participants: those present at the press panel the previous evening as well as community leaders of the department of Bounkiling, Tostan regional delegations, representatives from numerous rural communities, and the head of local literacy projects. Groups from neighboring villages also attended, many representing the unity of their villages through matching outfits and others dressed in their finest boubous (traditional African dress).
The declaration was celebrated with several performances including one by Mr. Vieux Kanoute on the traditional Senegalese guitar, the kora, music and dancing by Kolda, Tambacounda, and Ziguinchor youth groups; a skit by the youth group of Kegneto, the musical group of Bodnna, and music and dancing in traditional costumes the community of Ouonck. The declaration itself was read to the crowd in each of the local national languages (Mandinka, Fulani, Bainunk, and Diola) as well as in French. Adolescent Marième Cissé read the declaration in Fula. In closing, the prefect of Bounkiling firmly reminded the department of Bounkiling of their own duty: “We must all contribute to the follow-through of this declaration.”
In collaboration with the city of Madrid and l’Agence Espagnole de la Coopération Internationale (AECI), Tostan has implemented it’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in the Casamance region (communautés casamançaises fogni) over a period of 30-months. Through this partnership, over 1,130 people from the region have directly benefited from the Tostan program and at least 11,300 people have benefited through social mobilization activities.
For the 60 participating communities, the declaration represented the efforts of over three years of social mobilization activities and outreach – including the coordination of weekly radio programs, inter-village, generational and neighborhood meetings, marches, and much more.