Tuesday, February 21, 2012

VOICES OF TOSTAN: Nafissatou Sabaly

Tostan Facilitator Nafissatou Sabaly sparked discussion both within her family, her native village, and throughout the social network linking the village of Néma Dianfo to neighboring communities in Senegal. These discussions catalyzed a major shift in community-wide opinion of the practices of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage. In an interview with Will Schomburg, Tostan Communications Assistant in Dakar, Nafissatou describes her personal journey.

Nafissatou Sabaly, Tostan Community
Empowerment Program Facilitator
in Néma Dianfo, Senegal 
How does your family feel about your work?

I grew up in Yirkoye [a village in Senegal]. Since I started at Tostan, I’ve talked with my mother, my grandmother, my sisters and my brother about FGC. My mother told us that we had to [practice FGC]; that it was our custom. But when I told her, “No, it’s something that can kill,” she really started to think about it. We didn’t know the risks when I was a child. But now my brother’s daughters have never been cut—when he started having children, I took the time to talk with him about it.

Did all of your family agree with his decision?

My father didn’t have a problem with ending the practice. He pushed my mother to give it up. He understood the dangers right away when I explained them. But my mother kept asking if her granddaughters would be able to find a husband if they weren’t cut.

How did other community members respond to your views on FGC?

It was difficult to convince my home village. But every time I went back to visit, I talked with the women in my family, and especially with my brother’s wives. And they came and stayed and listened.

How did you convince them?

There’s one woman in my village who has never been able to have a child because she was cut. I explained why she couldn’t carry a child, and that really scared the women. And one of my brother’s wives had been cut when she was younger. They married when she was 14 years old and she had to have a cesarean. She was sick in the hospital for an entire month.

How did you feel about your brother marrying someone so young?

I objected. The girl didn’t know she had a choice. Her parents chose for her. After she ended up in the hospital and my brother saw what had gone wrong, he said he would never let his own daughters marry so young.

How did the rest of your family react?

Everybody saw what had gone wrong. My younger sister is 22 years old now, and my parents haven’t made her marry.

Do you think your family will continue to support her decision?

I was married when I was 17 years old, in 1990. I divorced in 1999. [My husband] wasn’t terribly cruel, but we weren’t getting along and there was occasional violence. My father thought I just didn’t want to be married. He said, “Sometimes there’s just violence in a marriage. It’s like that.” I told him: “You took me out of school to get married, now I’m moving back home and I’m going to start school again.” And I did—I found an organization, [Tostan], where I learned to read and write in Pulaar.

Now my father understands better. Every time he wants to marry my sister off, I say, “Don’t forget what happened to me. Don’t forget what happened to [my brother’s wife].” And he’ll say, “That’s right, I remember.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ANNOUNCEMENT: Molly Melching to Speak at FGC Abandonment Event with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Feb 16

Holding a banner that reads, "We can fully abandon FGC
 in Senegal," Tostan CEP participants proudly marched
 to a public declarationfor FGC abandonment in May 2011.

Invited by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tostan Founder Molly Melching will speak at a high-level panel discussion commemorating International FGC Abandonment Day this Thursday, February 16th, at the U.S. Department of State.

The event will be hosted by Secretary Clinton and moderated by Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues. The panel will also feature Imam Magid, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center), Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, General Manager for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation (WADI) in Germany, Nafissatou J. Diop, Director of the United Nations Population Fund and United Nations International Children’s Fund Joint Programme on FGM/C, and Zeinab Eyega, Executive Director of the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women

Follow @Tostan on Twitter for live updates from the event beginning at 1:00pm EST on the 16th. Also, live streaming of the event is available here.   

For additional information, click here to see the official event announcement.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

RH Reality Check Highlights Tostan's Respectful Approach to FGC

RH Reality Check, an online community and publication site dedicated to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, recently highlighted Tostan's successful grassroots approach to promoting the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC). The article drew attention to Tostan's subtle but important use of nonjudgmental language in discussing FGC as a means to respecting a community's agency to affect social change as well as the role the media can play in supporting such efforts. Read an excerpt from the article below or read the original full article at RH Reality Check's website here. 

Yesterday was International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a UN-sponsored day dedicated to raising awareness of the thousands year-old practice whereby a girl or woman’s genitals are cut. The WHO estimates that about 140 million women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. It’s considered by many to be harmful to a woman’s health and rights, as consent is rarely involved and the procedure is rarely done in hygienic settings.

The practice is often described in the most cringe-worthy and heart string-pulling ways (think legs tied down, shards of glass cutting at a young girl’s genitals, for example) and has roots that are centuries old and spread round the world. The act is not religiously based – though it’s often (mistakenly) attributed to or equated with Islam – but rather based in historical cultural concepts of women’s worth and value.

Continue reading the full article

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Change From Within": article by Molly Melching published in Population Connection’s The Reporter

Gambian youth vocalize their stance on child/forced marriage
 during an awareness raising march through
Basse, The Gambia in October 2011.
Youth from across The Gambia were recognized for their efforts to lead social change in a feature article published in the February edition of Population Connection’s The Reporter. The article entitled “Change from Within: Youth Leading Movement for the Abandonment of Child Marriage in The Gambia,” was written by Tostan Founder and Executive Director Molly Melching and spotlighted the energy and success of the third annual Tostan Gambia Youth Caravan. Organized by 170 Gambian youth who participated in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), the caravan gave teens the opportunity to share their belief in the importance of human rights with their social networks and to convey the responsibility each person has to advocate for positive, community-led change. 

To read the full article in the February edition of The Reporter on Population Connection’s website, click here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

February 6: Tostan Celebrates International FGC Abandonment Day

In eight countries where female genital cutting (FGC) is commonly practiced, Tostan partners with communities to implement an empowering human rights-based education program that has resulted in over 5,000 communities having declared abandonment of FGC. Senegal is on track for complete FGC abandonment by 2015 and the movement has taken root in seven additional countries. 

This February 6th, join with the communities who have abandoned female genital cutting and share the story of their success with your friends and family.
To read and share stories of success, click the links below.
New York Times: Senegal Curbs Bloody Rite for Girls and Women

The Independent: Victory in sight for revolution over female genital mutilation        
FIGO: Eradication of female genital mutilation "a matter of resources"

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tostan ranked as one of the Top 100 NGOs by The Global Journal

Released in their January-February 2012 issue, The Global Journal ranks Tostan as #41 on their list of the top 100 leading actors in the nonprofit world. This list serves to spark discussion and highlight the innovative efforts of organizations working to positively impact the lives of others. 

To see the feature of Tostan in The Global Journalclick here.

To view the full list of The Global Journal's Top 100 Best NGOs, click here.

For more information about the list, click here.
Blog adapted by Salim Drame