Global Resources

Female genital cutting

Publisher: Tostan
Publication Date: Jan 2014
Female genital cutting (FGC) is a deeply-rooted social norm enforced by community expectations around marriageability. Girls who are not cut are often ostracised by their communities. Tostan is an African-based organisation empowering rural communities to achieve sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights. Its community-led model allows community members to draw their own conclusions about FGC and lead their own movements for change. Tostan's Community Empowerment Program (CEP) respectfully engages with communities by working in their own languages and using traditional methods of learning.

During the the CEP, participants learn about their rights to health and freedom from all forms of violence, and discuss their shared responsibilities to protect these rights in their communities. They also learn about the potential, immediate, and long-term harmful consequences of the FGC, and discuss ways to prevent these health problems in the future. Rather than blaming or criticising, Tostan encourages dialogue around FGC and other practices that communities feel hinder their vision for their community’s development. As part of the CEP, Tostan trains Community Management Committees (CMCs) in the management skills necessary to implement development projects. CMCs consist of 17 democratically-selected members, at least nine of whom must be women. CMC members, and social mobilisation teams speak with friends and families, and travel to other communities to raise awareness about what they have learned. Through this process, many communities decide to end FGC altogether, some without having directly participated in the classes. Instances when communities have made public declarations against FGC are also critical for building critical mass, leading to the total abandonment of the practice. Tostan’s CEP has been recognised as the preferred approach for promoting the abandonment of FGC by both the Government of Senegal and the Government of The Gambia. Read evaluations of Tostan's work promoting the abandonment of FGC: