FGM/C trends in Senegal: Is there an end in sight? Launch of Social Network Intervention seeks to promote abandonment through strategic communications and innovative technologies

Our project, entitled Tracing Change in Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Senegal: Enhancing Positive Social Change Through Strategic Communication is centered on promoting the abandonment of FGM/C in Senegal.

FGM/C remains prevalent in Senegal, despite the ratification of a law banning the practice in 1999. This practice is a deeply entrenched tradition in certain areas of the country; it is both a social and a gender norm that is tied to ethnicity and upheld through social interactions and relationships. In Senegal, the national rate of FGM/C is 24% (28toomany, 2018), yet this statistic often masks stark regional disparities. For example, in the Kolda region, located in South Senegal, which is our focus area for the programme, the prevalence is approximately 94% (Kandala & Shell Duncan, 2019). Clearly, it can be dangerous to assume that national averages paint accurate descriptions of local realities when working in the domain of FGM/C. As social scientists, our role is to unearth the reasons why people are resistant to change, and thereby design innovative solutions through the implication of communities themselves.

This programme is evidence-based, using an innovative social network approach to accelerate positive behavior change and healthy social norms regarding FGM/C in Senegal. In places where FGM/C is prevalent, our previous research has served to illuminate the composition of social networks that uphold the practice. The findings have helped to reveal the motivating factors of continuing, as well as abandonment, of FGM/C. As a result, we sought to design a strategically tailored intervention program, which uses targeted social network methods to promote positive gender norms in select communities. It is in this light that we are developing contextually adapted communication strategies that will be diffused in target communities to encourage positive shifts in the contextual paradigm.

In June 2019, GRAG hosted the official launch of the programme at our office in Dakar. At this event, we were joined by representatives from our implementation partners OFAD/NAFOORE, as well as healthcare practitioners and representatives from UNFPA and the Canadian Embassy in Dakar, among others.

We are looking forward to the next steps for this project, which include producing advocacy videos and designing theatre sketches as strategic communication tools for community development, followed by implementation of the program, planned for early 2020.

Make sure to follow programme updates on our Instagram page @endFGM_Senegal.

This project is funded by the RYTHM Foundation