Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Progress.  Senegal is slowly moving away from the practice of cutting off girls’ clitorises.  From the New York Times story:,

SARE HAROUNA, Senegal — When Aissatou Kande was a little girl, her family followed a tradition considered essential to her suitability to marry. Her clitoris was sliced off with nothing to dull the pain. But on her wedding day, Ms. Kande, her head modestly covered in a plain white shawl, vowed to protect her own daughters from the same ancient custom. Days later, her village declared it would abandon female genital cutting for good.

Superb!  How are these reforms being accomplished? Through persistence and cultural sensitivity, and an organization called Tostan (Breakthrough):
The movement to end genital cutting is spreading in Senegal at a quickening pace through the very ties of family and ethnicity that used to entrench it. And a practice once seen as an immutable part of a girl’s life in many ethnic groups and African nations is ebbing, though rarely at the pace or with the organized drive found in Senegal. The change is happening without the billions of dollars that have poured into other global health priorities throughout the developing world in recent years. Even after campaigning against genital cutting for years, the United Nations has raised less than half the $44 million it set as the goal.

But here in Senegal, Tostan, a group whose name means “breakthrough” in Wolof, Senegal’s dominant language, has had a major impact with an education program that seeks to build consensus, African-style, on the dangers of the practice, while being careful not to denounce it as barbaric as Western activists have been prone to do. Senegal’s Parliament officially banned the practice over a decade ago, and the government has been very supportive of Tostan’s efforts.

There’s a lesson here.  The UN, with all of its protocols and bureaucracy easily becomes moribund, and locals do better than well meaning outsiders because they have the power of cultural understanding and entrepreneurship energies to nimbly adjust to specific conditions on the ground.  So glad to see Senegal making strides against oppression and human inequality.

Female genital mutilation is sexist subjugation that seeks to control women by robbing them of normal sexual function and fulfillment.  It has no place in the modern world

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles