2013 was a historic year for 30 communities from the Koulikoro region in Mali. Many representatives from these Bambara communities – including women, men, young children and teenagers gathered in the village of Fégoun near the banks of the Niger river to publicly declare the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage in their communities. The declaration is the result of decisions made in each community that these practices were harmful to the general well being of community members.

Traditionally, communities in Mali have been resistant to abandon these practices. The latest figures put the prevalence rate for FGC at 85.2% and for child/forced marriage at 71% in the country.

However, little of these complications were evident at the declaration itself. With hundreds of community members gathered together, many of whom were related or had not seen each other in a long time, the declaration took on a celebratory air. In addition to singing and dancing at the declaration and the celebrations the evening before, participants put on a play during the event which showed an individual family having discussions which led them to decide not to cut their daughters – a scene which had played out recently in hundreds of community members’ households.

Diarra Awa Sow, a member of her Community Management Committee’s (CMC) social mobilization team in the town of Koulikoro and the mother to three young girls – aged seven, five and one – was able to convince her family to abandon FGC after sharing with them some of the harmful effects the practice can cause. “I’m very happy today” she said at the declaration. “We were all on the path to continue the practice, but now we have changed course.”

Reported December 2013