After watching Moolaadé, I recalled that I had come across a story several months ago of how FGM is combated in Senegal in Kristof and WuDunn’s Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, released in 2009. Kristof and WuDunn devote the thirteenth chapter of the book (chapter: “Grassroots vs. Treetops”) to looking at an organization, Tostan, that works to “empower African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation” that has contributed to a reduction of FGM in African communities. The book itself explores women’s empowerment in developing countries.
Kristof and WuDunn establish early on in the chapter the demographic of individuals who practice FGM: “Today, female genital cutting is practiced mostly by Muslims in Africa, though it is also found in many Christian families in Africa. It is not found in most Arab or Islamic cultures outside Africa” (221). The emphasis is on Muslim African women who experience FGM.
Kristof and WuDunn highlight the work of a American expatriate, Molly Melching (the founder of Tostan), as they explore the organization’s contribution to reducing FGM in Senegalese communities. The “major educational program includes units on democracy, human rights, problem-solving, hygiene, health, and management skills” (226) and lasts for three years. The model doesn’t touch explicitly on “women’s rights” (to avoid antagonizing village men, who also attend the program). The group is not dedicated solely to addressing FGM, but instead places a “nonjudgmental discussion of human rights and health issues related to cutting” within the program.