Some of the most significant news stories that center on African women in recent years have been about female genital mutilation or FGM. (Interesting footnote, I’ve noticed that the choice of language between ‘female genital surgery” and “female genital mutilation” is treated as a bright-line for the writer’s politics about the issue itself. What is interesting to me is how many of those who choose ‘mutilation’ quickly shorten the phrase to the acronym FGM, arguably obscuring the linguistic elevation of the act from ‘surgery’ to ‘mutilation’).
Rather than forcing readers to guess about my politics from my choice of language, I’ll be clear: I think the practice of FGM is terrible.
Female genital surgery is terrible and the stories about it are often recounted by westerners as a means of distancing, otherizing, and even animalizing African families are also toxic. The approach to simply wield the tragedy as a moral panic — implying that somehow parents in Africa don’t love their kids doesn’t help change genital surgery.
Tostan does. Tostan is an African NGO that has a lengthy track-record of respectfully engaging with communities about the importance of strong women and girls. Tostan runs 30-month community empowerment projects, one of which, in Gambia, has resulted in 117 communities declaring their abandonment of FGM and child marriage.
Mr. Alagie F. Jallow said the day is a historic one as the participating communities have registered their achievements and positive social transformations. He said over one hundred and seventeen communities in Basse, Jimara, Tumana, Kantora, Wuli and Sandu districts, including the adopted communities, have come together to openly declare their abandonment of female genital cutting, early and forceful marriage in URR.
He said this historic moment came about after the participating communities have undergone an intensive three year holistic community empowerment programme led by facilitators through social mobilisation and sensitisation activities by the team, CMC members and the communities. He said the training was centred around issues affecting the health and well being of women and girls as violations of fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Universals Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights amongst others to which the Gambia is a signatory.
He said these human rights are also part of the Kobi one modules of the Tostan Community Empowerment Programme (CEP). He said the CEP is not only focusing on harmful traditional practices but a holistic approach to community led sustainable development covering themes on democracy and good governance, human rights and responsibilities, problem solving process, health and hygiene, literacy and management skills as well as feasibility study and introduction to small micro project implementation.
If you have some spare change, and you think this is as awesome as I do, celebrate by sending a couple of bucks to Tostan.