|Abstract or Summary
- The World Health Organization (WHO) defines female genital cutting (FGC) as “all procedures
that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female
genital organs for non-medical reasons” (WHO, 2010). This practice has existed in Africa for
thousands of years, but over the past few decades it has captured the attention of Western
audiences and development organizations.
One organization that has received a considerable amount of attention is Tostan, a NGO that
implements a human-rights based, non-formal educational program in West and East Africa.
Tostan vaulted onto the international scene in 1997 when it began facilitating the first public
declaration abandoning FGC. To date, close to 5,000 communities in 5 countries have publically
announced their abandonment of FGC in front of political leaders, religious leaders, and other
communities in their area.
This essay is a case study that explores why Tostan’s program and approach have led to FGC
abandonment in The Gambian context. Using curriculum review, classroom observation, and
interviews with staff and participants, I found that Tostan’s success stems from its use of a
holistic, respectful approach that incorporates community values. An application of the multiple
streams policy framework and innovation and diffusion policy models enrich the findings by
bringing further insight to FGC at the national level.