2012 Somalia: TOSTAN Pilot Project on “Ending FGM/C” in Northwest and Northeast Zone in Somalia
Author: Family Support Institute, Kenya
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Tostan’s activities in Somalia began in 2006, when UNICEF funded its pilot Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) titled “Ending Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Somalia.” Tostan’s CEP aimed to empower communities to create healthier, more gender sensitive, environmentally sound and financially secure lives.
Tostan CEP was anchored in non-formal education modules covering themes of good governance and democracy, human rights and responsibilities, problem solving, hygiene and health. [...more in report]
The Tostan approach was grounded in traditional African learning models that made training familiar and accessible to Somali participants. All class sessions were taught in the Somali language and led by locals, native to the country and fluent in the cultural traditions. Tostan classes were conducted in each region in clusters of seven villages, each overseen by a supervisor.
Direct participants were expected to share their new knowledge with at least 10 other people. The strategy also aimed to strengthen the capacity of Somali communities to lead sustainable development efforts and collaborate with local NGOs.
Through a decentralized approach, Tostan planned to reach 42 communities in three regions: the Northwest, the Northeast and South Central Somalia. Seven rural and urban communities were chosen to partake in the CEP and each was expected to share their new knowledge with at least five to ten surrounding communities. Due to insecurity, however, the South Central programme was suspended at least for years. [...more in report]
Findings and Conclusions:
The findings established that the Tostan CEP successfully implemented its key interventions. The programme also strengthened the capacity of communities including community-based organisations to be change agents and expanded the democratic space in the communities. The outcomes have been changes in attitudes, perceptions and behaviour of community members, which contributes to the abandonment of FGM/C and other harmful cultural practices in intervention type A villages and indirectly through diffusion in type B villages. [...more in report]
Based on the findings, this final Tostan CEP evaluation has made a number of conclusions that are reported below.
First, the Tostan CEP has successfully implemented its decentralized strategy by concentrating its interventions in 14 communities in each of the Northwest and Northeast zones. Tostan’s key interventions included the non-formal training programme that targeted adult women and men and adolescents. Through the training programme, Tostan mobilized community members to participate in the Tostan CEP interventions. Following implementation of the training programme, participants, especially women in type A villages in the Northwest zone, began to engage in dialogue, learning, exchange of ideas, problem solving and decision making. The Tostan CEP also established functioning Community Management Committees (CMCs) that were transformative structures that ensured achievement of sustainable development as Tostan strengthened their capacities. CMCs expanded the democratic space, especially of women and girls in the communities and within families. Community outreach activities were conducted and included village meetings that provided the support system for making public commitments. Community networks were used to share the knowledge, discussion and building consensus on sensitive local issues and make collective decisions.
Secondly, the Tostan CEP interventions ignited changes that are transforming communities in the programme target regions. The change is concentrated in the Tostan CEP intervention villages compared to non-intervention villages, in the Northwest zone more than Northeast zone and more so among women compared to men. The programme’s influence is also indirectly introduced through diffusion of Tostan CEP interventions. These changes are translating into increased awareness and knowledge about early/child marriages and FGM/C as harmful practices and violence against women/girls and hence women’s rights and child rights. Tostan CEP’s efforts are transforming women’s health behaviour in communities, both directly and through diffusion, and yielding visible results as more women visit health providers during pregnancy. More women and men are marrying at older ages (18+), shunning arranged marriages and early/child marriages are declining, probably on account of Tostan CEP interventions, supported by Somali culture.
Finally a change process appears to be underway, especially in the intervention type A villages in Northwest Zone. Through these change process families, villages and populations are learning from each about human rights. Within communities, especially the intervention type A villages in the Northwest Zone, women and men are increasingly withholding support for FGM/C and early/child marriages. They instead are increasingly supporting women and girls’ leadership, while organs such as Community Management Committees are used to resolve conflicts and bring sustainable development within communities. Shifting attitudes, perceptions and practices are contributing to reduction and decline in FGM/C. Tostan CEP has also expanded platforms for meetings, dialogue and exchanges and community’s self-interrogation on FGM/ C and hence setting the stage for gradual abandonment. These achievements are being made through collaboration and synergies with local organisations and other programmes.
There were, however, marked disparities in programme performance and results with concentration in intervention villages, among women and in the Northwest region. Further, Tostan CEP is results are mainly realized through direct interventions and much less through diffusion. There are, also, some powerful social forces that are obstacles to change and transformation towards abandonment of FGM/C. These include codes of conduct that sanction behaviour and instil fear of social rejection, lower bride wealth, reduced chances of marriage, stigma and discrimination as well as religious disapproval for nonconformity. This could also be an indication that FGM/C is deeply entrenched in the culture and social fabric and change and transformation can only be realized through multipronged approaches and investment in adequate time and programme resources.
This evaluation provided a number of key lessons and challenges that form the basis for recommendations. The evaluation provided an excellent opportunity to interrogate the importance and effects of a Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) that places the beneficiaries at the centre. A key challenge was the lack of baseline data to provide benchmarks against which to measure the programme results and guide decisions about redirecting the programme.
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