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GLOBAL MOVEMENT FOR A CULTURE OF PEACE

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Tostan
an article by Leah Jarvis

Molly Melching went to Senegal to do field research for a few months right after college and basically never came back; now she’s been there for over thirty years. She is the founder of Tostan, a Senegal-based NGO that uses education based on human rights to empower families and communities in Western Africa. This is not a quick-fix kind of program; Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) consists of two and a half years of class sessions held several times a week in each village and taught by village-based volunteers, most of whom are Senegalese. The program does not aim to westernize; the classes are taught in Wolof, the most widely spoken national language, and use the African oral tradition, incorporating participation, role play, theater, dance, and song.

The innovative approach is impressive enough on its own, but the key to success seems to have been the focus on human rights that Tostan began emphasizing in its classes eight years ago. Since then, the program has exploded, now implementing its CEP in more than 2000 villages in five countries, and has gained support and participation from a wide variety of community members: women and men, children and elderly, political and religious leaders. By focusing on open communication, education, and dissemination of information, networks of villages have been able to reach consensus on important issues never before discussed on such a large, participatory scale.

Perhaps most significantly, almost 1700 communities in Senegal have decided of their own accord to abandon the practices of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) and of child marriage. Each community or group of communities announced this decision in a public declaration, an event especially notable because of the previously tabooed treatment of the subject. Other accomplishments encouraged by Tostan include increased use of vaccination resources, reduced infant and maternal mortality rates, increased pre- and post-natal visits, increased enrollment of children in school, especially girls, and empowerment of women and emergence of female leadership.

For more information visit www.tostan.org.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


How to stop violence against children,

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LATEST READER COMMENT:

Molly,

Hi!  I agree with most of what you say below. By am confused by what you say here :

"The value of the ritual must be honored but it's expresstion must be changed to one which is  symbolical the same without any harm to the initates.  The group must be allowed to develop this change to the ritual and the members must feel positive about themselves as a result of this change."

IMO, if the reason for the ritual is to control and hurt others, which most rituals are for in these situations, it might be better to not perform the ritual at all. But please feel free to post and clarify what you said if I misunderstood it. Thanks.

Neil


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Ritual abuse as part of cultural practice is very difficult to dimish without tampering with the culture as a whole. I know from working in social work with abused children in the US that all ritual abuse is culturally related. The adult prepentrator is encouraged by his ties to the group to met their expectations and feels justified by that group's consenus.

Not only the individuals but the group need to see themselves and the role of parenting/ caring of the young differently. . ...more.


This report was posted on March 13, 2007.