On 15th November 2015, over fifty communities in the Kaolack region of Senegal came together to declare an end to the practice of female genital cutting, witnessed by over 1,000 people. HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who has supported the work of Orchid Project and our Danish branch for the last couple of years, attended the declaration along with our CEO and founder Julia.
HRH The Crown Princess gave the following speech at the declaration in Medina Sabar, Kaolack:
My heartfelt greetings to each and every one of you: men, women, boys and girls. And what a beautiful sight to see so many men, here today, supporting women and girls to a life of better health and possibilities.
Thank you for the warmth and openness with which we have been received and for extending us your renowned Senegalese hospitality.
I am honored to be here today, to be participating — and celebrating — with you as you join together in this historic declaration. Your courage in choosing a better, healthier world for women and girls by declaring an end to female genital cutting and child marriage is truly commendable.
Together, you are achieving remarkable transformation in your communities. When a community stands unified in deciding that certain practices no longer correspond to its deeper values of health, peace, well-being, and respect — and stands unified in deciding to end these practices — this is the mark of true and sustainable development.
I have been following Tostan’s work in Senegal for several years, and have had the opportunity to meet with Tostan staff, participants, facilitators, and supervisors who work tirelessly and with undying commitment to support and promote well-being and human rights for their fellow Senegalese. They believe in the work they are doing, and they believe in the power of a united community to bring about significant and lasting change that will shape the future for generations of not only women and girls to come but, the whole of community.
In my country Denmark, and in many of the other countries, we need to hear your stories, your voices. We have much to learn from your example, how you are rising to the challenges of social transformation by embracing human rights at a grassroots level, and how you are courageously and respectfully engaging in the conversations that create bridges to a better future.
Allow me to use a Senegalese proverb, “It is better to seek a path than to stand and yell at the forest.” Today, you are walking that path. You are the leaders of your own change. I look forward to seeing more paths like this being forged not just in Senegal, but across all of Africa…when communities from Senegal to Somalia, from Algeria to South Africa, stand together in declaring to the world that FGC and child marriage are a thing of the past.
Congratulations to all of you on your incredible achievements towards making human rights accessible to all.
I wish you all peace, happiness, good health and the opportunity to realise your full potential as individuals and as communities for the prosperous future of your beautiful country.