In the News

Senegal Curbs a Traditional Rite, African-Style

17 Octubre 2011
Author: UNFPA

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.

Across the continent, an estimated 92 million girls and women have undergone it. But like more than 5,000 other Senegalese villages, Sare Harouna has joined a growing movement to end the practice.

The change has not yet reached Ms. Kande’s new home in her husband’s village, but if elders there pressured her to cut the baby girl she is taking into the marriage, she said, “I would resist them.” Her parents back her up.

“They would never dare do that to my granddaughter, and we would never allow it,” said Ms. Kande’s mother, Marietou Diamank.

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.

“Before you would never even dare to discuss this,” said Mamadou Dia, governor of the Kolda region where this village is located. “It was taboo. Now you have thousands of people coming to abandon it.”

The night before Sare Harouna joined 118 other villages for a ceremony to abandon the practice, people poured in by horse cart, bus and truck. As darkness fell, women illuminated by wood fires stirred vats of couscous and beef stew for the hordes of visitors.

Read the full story by Celia W. Dugger on the New York Times website.

Senegal
Población : 16.7 mil
Tasa de fertilidad
4.6
Proporción de mortalidad materna
315
Tasa de prevalencia de anticonceptivos
26
Población de 10 a 24 años
32%
Youth secondary school enrollment
Niños 35%
Niñas 39%