WEST AFRICA: Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation Not Targeting Culture: NGO

The executive-director of an NGO known as TOSTAN Molly Melching, which is leading a campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages of young girls in West Africa, has said her organization is not fighting culture, but is trying to promote human and health right of woman and girl child.

"We are trying together to promote something very positive, woman's health, human rights for every one especially for women and girls," said Melching, locally known as Soukeyna Ndiaye, during Sunday's celebration to mark the 10th of public declaration denouncing FGM in Malicounda Bambara, a village in Mbour district, about 80 km in central-western Senegal.

She noted the declaration denouncing FGM made in Malicounda 10 years ago was "done in a tense atmosphere where no one wanted to speak about it publicly."

She reckons "there was a big controversy surrounding their decision. And we have all suffered," adding she even had to live through "agonizing moments for a very long time."

Today, more than 2,600 villages of different West African countries have joined the women of Malicounda by denouncing FGM, according to Melching, who also denied her organization exerted pressure on women to obtain their adhesion to the fight against FGM, a common practice in many West African countries.

In 1997, women of Malicounda Bambara made a public declaration denouncing FGM. Since then, more than 2,000 such declarations have been made in other villages in Senegal, Guinea, Gambia, Mauritania and Burkina Faso under auspices of TOSTAN and other United Nations agencies and partners.

SOURCE: People's Daily Online

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DATE: 07/08/2007

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