The African villages declaring an end to female genital mutilation | Liz Ford

From Global development | The Guardian Wed Dec 5 2012, 14:27:24

NGO Tostan is empowering people in west Africa to understand their human rights and encouraging them to abandon FGM

Molly Melching will travel to Guinea-Bissau this month to witness a milestone moment. Villages in the west African state with which Melching's organisation, Tostan, has been working, will make public declarations of their intention to live according to the principles of human rights. And by doing so, they promise to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice prevalent in at least 28 African countries.

The declarations follow three years of education and discussion in families, villages and wider communities about people's rights, specifically the rights of women and girls, and what they mean for future wellbeing. They are a mark in the sand, a declaration that the village will no longer tolerate practices deemed to be harmful, and will sanction those who participate in them.

"It's a big declaration," says Melching, in London this week to speak at the Trust Women conference, organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International Herald Tribune. "Three and a half years ago, people believed so strongly in the practice [FGM], but in the space of three years, the community came together and are holding a declaration of human rights, saying we will own them and apply them."

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