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. Across the continent, an estimated 92 million girls and women have undergone it. 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.
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.