Imam Fights Female Genital Mutilation in Tingolé, Mali
An imam in Mali is highly respected by the community and the authorities alike. He leads the prayers, preaches sermons, and performs all religious rites. During sermons, imams discuss issues of everyday life and provide religious and spiritual guidance to the community.
A Temporal and Spiritual Guide: A Great Ally in the Fight Against FGM
In the village of Tingolé, Imam El Hadj Zoumana is using his influence as a distinguished religious preacher to change the traditional attitudes of his community: He is leading the fight to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
In Mali, thousands of girls undergo FGM every year for various cultural reasons and even religious beliefs. Imam Zoumana is categorical when he says, “The practice of excision does not have a religious sanction as many believe.”
“For me, it started four years ago when I attended a meeting organized by Plan in Fana, in the central part of Mali. I discovered during presentations, which involved images, how excision could have disastrous health consequences for girls. I couldn’t hold back my tears after learning about the full scale of atrocity that our girls and women suffer when they undergo excision.” Transformed by the awareness session, Zoumana became a champion for fighting FGM in his community.
Given FGM is often associated with religion, the subject is often not openly discussed in communities. “Initially, the people in my village didn’t want to discuss the issue of FGM and less still [consider abandoning] the practice. I even organized a debate with the council of elders in the village but to no avail. Nothing really happened until few months later when a girl died of hemorrhage caused by excision,” says Imam Zoumana.
“This led people to revisit the discussions I had been holding. My peers in 12 neighboring villages also debated ‘Female Circumcision and Islam.’ Gradually women's groups and even groups of children were created in the village to fight against excision,” he adds.
The results of Imam Zoumana’s hard work, aggressive campaign, and awareness-raising are clearly visible.
“Today I am proud to say that for over two years, no excision has taken place in my village. I hope that my community has totally abandoned the practice of excision for good,” he says.
Plan Mali is working with local partners on a program to reduce FGM among girls aged 0-14 by 10 percent. The five-year program began in 2010 and covers 180 villages within the country. It has met with significant success, as 44 out of 60 villages targeted have already abandoned the practice of excision.
"Our experience involving community leaders for the promotion of child rights and fighting excision is a good practice. Iman El Hadj Zoumana is a real asset to achieve our goals," says Madina Bocoum Daff, FGM Specialist in Mali.