16 June 2015

Can Senegal break free from the cycle of FGM?

Released for the Day of the African Child 2015, a new country profile on FGM in Senegal by 28 Too Many reports that an estimated 25.7% of girls and women (aged 14-59) have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) and this figure has not changed significantly over the past ten years. This is despite Senegal having laws against FGM, high levels of public awareness of FGM, and the work of organisations and campaigners to tackle the issue.

FGM is mostly found in the south and east of Senegal with prevalence rates particularly high in Kedougou (92%), Matam (87%), Sedhiou (86%) and Tambacounda and Kolda (both 85%). In these areas where it is a common practice, attitudes to FGM are deeply entrenched and amongst women who have undergone FGM 52.2% believe it should continue (DHS 2014).

However, where NGOs are working with communities evidence suggests that attitudes towards FGM are changing. The Grandmother Project in Tambacounda reported that whereas before their project started 88% of mothers and 85% of grandmothers believed FGM was a cultural obligation, two years later this had fallen to 9% and 5% respectively. Similarly, over 7,000 villages have participated in NGO Tostan’s Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) and declared their intent to abandon FGM.

“These reported changes in attitude and public declarations are encouraging but do not necessarily mean that everyone in these communities will stop carrying out FGM,” says Dr Ann-Marie Wilson, Executive Director of 28 Too Many. “Our research shows that there are many challenges in ending FGM and no single solution. Governments need to take action to have clear laws, to enforce them and to establish a national action plan. This must be done together with support for grassroots organisations who work directly with communities so I am particularly pleased to be in Dakar meeting those working to end FGM in Senegal for the launch of this report. In addition religious leaders must be encouraged to speak out against FGM and challenge the misconceptions in some areas that FGM is a religious requirement.”

Dr Judi Aubel, Executive Director of Grandmother Project – Change through Culture said, “We welcome this new research by 28 Too Many. The report provides up to date information on FGM in Senegal and will be a valuable resource for all of us working to bring about change and end FGM.”