185730 Tostan: Working with communities to empower them to abandon female genital cutting

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 12:50 PM

Gannon Gillespie , Tostan US Office, Washington, DC
Tostan, a grassroots nonprofit working in Senegal since 1991, has developed a unique and effective approach to working on female genital cutting (FGC)--one that is changing the way people view and design programming for this complex practice. Tostan's Community Empowerment Program uses a cross-cutting, non-formal education model to address a wide range of areas including democracy, human rights, problem-solving, health and hygiene, literacy, math, and microcredit. The program works with a wide range of community members (young and old, members of different castes and ethnic groups, men and women, etc). It operates in local languages and uses familiar means of communication (song, dance, poetry, dialogue, etc). This presentation will describe Tostan's program and successes in many different areas, particularly in FGC where the program has led to nearly 3,000 communities publicly declaring their abandonment of FGC and other harmful practices in Senegal. The abandonment movement has now spread across Senegal and continuing further, both across Africa (communities from seven different countries have held their own declarations or participated in events in Senegal). Tostan's strategy has been adopted at a global level by UNICEF as a part of their coordinated strategy for the abandonment of FGC in a single generation. This presentation will also discuss the implications of Tostan's working simultaneously in Africa and within diaspora populations in Europe and North America to ensure that abandonment spreads even while girls who are already cut have access to care and adequate health resources.

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify the “Social Convention Theory of FGC” which highlights the social dynamics of the practice. 2. Recognize the necessity of involving social networks in the process of large-scale change. 3. Describe the method of empowering communities to make decisions to abandon harmful cultural practices, including FGC.

Keywords: Female Genital Mutilation, Reproductive Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Director of US Operations for Tostan.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.