STANDING UP AGAINST FGM
Different mechanisms have been used to make public the pledge to abandon the practice. In some contexts, public pledges have taken the form of written declarations, publicly posted, which are signed by those who have decided to abandon female genital mutilation. In West Africa, pledges are typically made in the form of inter-village declarations involving as many as 100 villages at a time. These are festive occasions that bring together individuals who have participated in the educational sessions, religious, traditional and government leaders and a large number of other community members. Often, people from communities that have not been directly involved in promoting abandonment are invited as a way of spreading the abandonment movement. Media are typically present and serve to disseminate information about the fact that communities are abandoning the practice and to explain the reasons why.
Among some populations where female genital mutilation is traditionally accompanied by a "coming of age" ritual, alternative rituals that reinforce the traditional positive values but without female genital mutilation, have been pursued. Such approaches have added new elements in the rituals, including education on human rights and sexual and reproductive health issues. Alternative rites have been found to be effective to the extent that they foster a process of social change by engaging the community at large, as well as girls, in activities that lead to changing beliefs about female genital mutilation.
As with individual families, it is difficult for one community to abandon the practice if those around it continue. Activities at community level therefore include an explicit strategy for spreading the decision to abandon the practice throughout the practicing population. This is typically done by passing information and engaging in discussion with influential members of other communities that are part of the same social network. Through a strategy of organized diffusion, communities that are abandoning the practice engage others to do the same, thereby increasing the consensus and sustainability of the new social norm that rejects female genital mutilation.
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