What We Do

Pledge Against Excision
 
Public Meetings
 
Villages’ Decisions
 
Poster Projects
 
Working with Excisers
 
Fifth Person Principle
 
Music
 
Videos and Other Media
 
Artists’ Involvement
 
Other Important People’s Involvement
 
District by District Activism
 
Religious Leaders' Involvement
 
Clubs
 
Stories from our Campaign
 
Our Materials
 
 

Sini Sanuman works in Mali, West Africa, to convince parents not to have their daughters excised, and excisers to stop excising. We work person-to-person, through large public meetings, sometimes with whole villages and through the mass media. We operate from our office in Bamako.

Pledge Against Excision

Since 2001, we have been conducting a signature campaign with the Pledge Against Excision, which invites Malians to promise never to have a girl excised. It also asks whether the moment is right for a law in Mali against the practice. The vast majority of Malians who sign, think it is time. In October 2007, we turned in 30,000 signatures to the Malian National Assembly. We hope that these signatures will help create such a law. We are following up as the President of the National Assembly, Dioncounda Traoré, asked us to, working with the Health and Law commissions. In late 2008 and early 2009, we organized a series of workshops at which we put together a bill that we presented to the legislature in January 2009. We hope the legislature will vote on the question of excision soon.

Individual activists and our partner groups helped gather these signatures for the Pledge Against Excision and we haven’t stopped gathering signatures. Our partner groups include Amnesty International, Planned Parenthood, the Centre Djoliba and many other local groups. Click here for the list. We will keep taking signatures on the Pledge Against Excision at least until we see what decision the legislature makes about outlawing the practice.

We keep track of famous people who sign the Pledge. By now we have a long list of well-known signers, which we show people, if they seem to need extra persuading. We also turned this list in with the signatures to the legislature. The list includes famous politicians like the president of the National Assembly Dioncounda Traoré, popular artists like Ali Farka Touré and Oumou Sangaré, dozens of legislators, mayors, religious leaders, and other leading personalities in Malian society.

Our main handout has information about FGM on one side and quotes from religious leaders on the other. We have found that simply listing all the problems with FGM is powerful and that people are very impressed with the quotes, showing that many influential religious leaders these days do not support FGM.

Public Meetings

One of our main ways of spreading our message is through large meetings. A Sini Sanuman public meeting typically consists of a presentation of the main points against excision, often using felt-board drawings, photos of complications from FGM or a video. After questions and discussion, people are invited to sign the Pledge Against Excision. Sometimes we show movies, in which case, the discussion is shorter, but we still make time to share reactions and to invite people to sign the Pledge Against Excision, when this is feasible. At the end of our meetings, sometimes we ask people to stand up if they are with us, and almost everyone does. In 2011 we have 3 teams of activists leading meetings under tents in 3 public market places, with each team seeing about 100 people a day.

In 2013 we set up a drop-in center (centre d'ecoute) for victims of FGM and sexual violence, where women can go and share their experiences, taking part in group meetings and also getting individual counseling.

In August, 2013, we organized a meeting where 11 excisers were among the 30 women leaders discussing FGM for 5 days. All 11 decided to renounce the practice and many turned in their knives to the mayor of District of Bamako, where the meeting was held (see photo). This brings our total to about 150 excisers who have abandoned the practice.

Our list of other excisers who've stopped is very persuasive to others who are considering giving up the practice. Many of them are helping spread the word.

Singing – Some of our key activists like to sing. When they lead meetings, after the serious discussions are through, one of them might ask people if they’d like to hear a song about the subject, and they always say “yes,” so our presenter would sing one of our songs. Then she might ask if any other people want to sing something, which they often do. Sometimes people run home and get drums. When we’re done, people often don’t want us to leave.

Here is a video of Susan McLucas singing Leave Her Alone in Bambara to ex-excisers in the course of making the music video "I Abandon".

Villages’ Decisions

In the course of four such meetings, the people of Moussala, a village near Bamako, decided to stop excising and adopted the Declaration of Moussala. They celebrated their decision on March 12, 2005, with speeches, songs, dancing and a big feast. In June, near-by Tamala had a similar celebration, covered on the TV news. In November 2006, a third village, Konibabougou, marked its decision to stop excising with a public ceremony, as well. In each case, the village chief played an important role. A fourth village, Missalabougou, made the same decision and held a ceremony in June 2007. One highlight of that ceremony was a song by a chorus of girls who had not been excised in the last few years, since we started working there (see photo).

In March '7 we put a sign up in Moussala and had a renewal ceremony which got on the nightly news in Mali. At that ceremony too, girls who had been spared from being excised sang and the 2 ex-excisers of the village received Certificates of Honor from representatives of the National Program Against Excision.

Kariba Coulibaly, chief of Konibabougou, had talked to other village chiefs in his area about following his village's lead. In 2009 Sini Sanuman worked in 10 villages, to try to convince them to stop excising. Saba, Colonda, Piekabougou and Arounabougou were near Konibabougou, Coulibaly's village, and he accompanied the activists from Sini Sanuman on all the trips to the villages, one of the reasons that things worked out so well in those villages. In January, Soba celebrated its decision to stop excising with great fanfare. In February, 2009, N'Tabakoro, on the other side of Bamako, close to Tamala, in Sanankoroba, celebrated their decision to stop with a ceremony. Colonda, Piekabougou and Arounabougou had a joint celebration in Colonda to mark their decision in November, 2009.

We now have 9 villages that have officially stopped excising.

We also initiated a list that is being kept by the Women's Ministry that counts all the villages that different NGO's or other groups have convinced to stop excising. There are 400 such villages that we've found out about so far around Mali. This list has been posted in the county halls where Sini Sanuman's villages are located, and is receiving a lot of attention.

Each village adopts its own declaration, but they tend to be similar. Click here to read our first village's statement, the "Declaration of Moussala."

In 2012, the chief of Tamala, our second village to stop FGM, called the office to say that he'd heard some neighboring villages were planning a big excision ceremony. He wanted our president Siaka Traore to join him to try to convince them to stop. In a whirlwind tour of 3 days they visited the villages of Welessebougou, N'Gassa and Falou and were able to convince the first two villages to cancel their planned excision ceremonies. In Falou, instead of 27 girls, 9 were excised. So we were able to save 62 girls from being excised in these three villages. We will return to these villages and hope to make the decisions of Welessebougou and N'Gassa permanent and hope to convince the rest of the people in Falou of our position. We are not counting Welessebougou or N'Gassa on our list of villages that have stopped, but they are well on their way and we hope to add them to the list soon.

Poster Projects

'In July 2010 British photographer Sam Faulkner and Thomas Phillips, Sicco Diemer and Rosy Head from Mon Frere were awarded a Getty Grant for Good to strengthen advocacy work against FGM in Mali. Together with Sini Sanuman they devised and produced a series of posters from portraits of well-known and influential Malians who represent different groups relevant to the struggle. Among them are Fantani Touré and Alpha Diakité Bassamba, both famous musicians; Bakoniba Traoré, the village chief of a village that's stopped excising; Doctor Kamissoko Abdoulaye from the main health center in District IV of Bamako (CSRef CIV); Imam Fousseyni Doumbia, the imam of Quartier Mali; Sénédia Diarra, an ex-exciser now helping the campaign; Ben Chérif Diabaté, President of the Association of Griots in Bamako; Kadidia Sidibé, a well-known leader in the anti-FGM movement who's happy to say that she's not excised, a girl who's happy not to be excised and a victim of excision.

The portraits were shot in and around Bamako in the first two weeks of January 2011. The posters and billboards were designed and produced shortly thereafter. Distribution of 5000 posters began in February 2011 and 4 large bill boards went up in key public spaces in Bamako. The campaign was launched on the 'International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation' February 6, 2011.' Click here to see the 10 portrait posters.

This is our second poster project. Toward the end of 2008, we made minor revisions on a poster that Susan had created at the Centre Djoliba in 1997. We distributed over 2000 copies of it through our network of activists and partner groups and through the health, education and women's ministries. In 1997, the image was considered shocking but now most people seem to find it appropriate. View that poster: in English or in French (as it appears in Mali)

Working with Excisers

We take special notice of excisers. When we hear of one, we go see her and discuss the problems with the practice. We show graphic pictures of medical complications from FGM. Sometimes just looking at these pictures is enough to make a woman decide to quit. Often it takes a few visits, but most of the excisers that we’ve approached have decided to stop excising.

We always give excisers that stop a Certificate of Honor, which they really seem to appreciate, and often a copy of the tape “Stop Excision.” Sometimes we dance to a few songs, as a fun way to cement the understanding.

Our list of over 100 excisers who’ve stopped is very persuasive to other excisers who are considering the change. One exciser said that with this list of ex-excisers, the quotes from religious leaders, the songs by famous musicians, and the list of famous people who’d signed the Pledge Against Excision, it seemed like everybody was stopping. So she stopped too.

In August 2008, we recorded and broadcast messages from ex-excisers saying why they had stopped and encouraging others to do the same. One said that, when she saw that FGM was bad, she just naturally wanted to stop. She said that of course her life is not worth any more than the next person’s, so why would she want to make her money hurting people?

We are honored and pleased by how many of the excisers who’ve stopped with our encouragement have joined the movement. They reach out to other excisers, and tell parents who come to them for the “service” why they’ve stopped. One of them works with the Club of Whole Women as an advisor. Many tell us that, because they stopped, their whole neighborhood has stopped.

Fifth Person Principle

Our president, Siaka Traoré, was the fifth person to approach our first exciser, Djarawélé Sinagnoko. She told us she was very angry at the first person who criticized her “profession.” She was still upset, but less so, at the second person. By the time the fifth person said the same thing to her, she decided that she didn’t want to go against the whole community and stopped. The early people might have felt that they failed, but they were part of the process of convincing her. Speaking up is a powerful tool and Sini Sanuman encourages everyone, if they are against FGM, to say so.

Music

In 2000, with a grant from the Canadian Center for International Cooperation and Study (CECI,) Sini Sanuman organizer Susan McLucas produced an album “Stop Excision.” It contains eight anti-excision songs in five local languages. The songs have been played extensively at meetings and on the radio. The women’s ministry distributed 5,000 copies of it to organizations in the movement. Sini Sanuman now has 2 new songs as well, “Ca Fait Mal” by Adama Yalomba and Hawa Diabaté and “I Abandon” (excision) by Ténin Bomboté. In “Ca Fair Mal” the popular couple sing that they would never excise a girl and in “I Abandon” the singer relates that she couldn’t sleep at night, thinking of the cries of the girls.

Stop Excision album, info and to buy

Videos

Besides hearing the songs on the radio, people also see them as music videos. Sini Sanuman’s newest music video, “I Abandon,” made in 2007, features 17 ex-excisers singing in the chorus, and throwing their knives in a hole. Then they show the new jobs they are doing with great pride. In 2005, Sini Sanuman produced a music video, “Ca Fait Mal” with Malian pop star Adama Yalomba and his wife Hawa Diabaté. In the video the woman singer laughs off a normally devastating insult (un-excised woman) and says she’s happy about that and her very popular husband gives a big thumbs-up. This video has been played over 100 times in 10 countries in West Africa. In 2001, as part of the grant for the album ‘Stop Excision,’ various producers began work on music videos of some of the songs on that album. In 2004, Sini Sanuman completed some of these videos and arranged for their broadcast. These videos are: “Anka Fo ‘Ante!’” (We Can Say “No!”) by Kandia Kouyaté, “Sariya” (the Law) by the Zotto Boys, and “Takhoundi” (Excision) by Nayini Koné.

These videos are being played regularly on Malian and regional cable TV. To see these videos click here.

Other media: Most of our media work has been producing and broadcasting our music videos, but we have also appeared on many radio programs, produced and broadcast many messages for the radio and produced and broadcast a major TV talk show “Ca Se Discute.” The national TV station put our presentation of signatures to the National Assembly on the nightly news. Our villages’ celebrations have also appeared on the TV news as well as one of our large trainings (for the Network of Committees of Participatory Development in District I of Bamako.)

We were also responsible for getting Moolaade on Malian TV twice, in April 2010. Moolaade is a classic anti-FGM film by Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene in the local Malian language of Bambara.

Artists’ Involvement

In a country where most people don’t read, songs by famous recording artists are a great way to get our message out. The album “Stop Excision” has been played for years on radio stations around Mali, which we presume has helped change people’s minds. Some of the artists also play an active role in our campaign. Adama Yalomba not only recorded “Ca Fait Mal” and made a video out of it; he joined us in person at the ceremonies when the village of Tamala stopped excising and Moussala erected their sign to that effect. Griot Daye Koné recorded “Takhoundi” (Excision) in Sarakolé, a local language, for the album “Stop Excision,” and has personally convinced many excisers to stop. He has access to important people, like government ministers, because of his role as a griot (traditional story-teller and singer).

Other Important People’s Involvement

We cultivate influential people and encourage them to use their influence for our cause. The village chief of Konibabougou, our third village to stop FGM, convinced an exciser to stop with very little trouble. It’s hard to say no to the chief. Also, Ousmane Chérif Haidara, a very influential Muslim preacher, has mentioned on various occasions that excision is not part of the religion of Islam. We know of one man, who was adamantly in favor of FGM, who changed his mind after hearing Haidara say that.

District by District Activism

In October 2011 we started a project in District I of Bamako, that has allowed us to hire 8 new workers. The opening ceremony was on the nightly news. Our activists are leading many public meetings, and helping to train key community leaders. Elected and other officials will participate in educational meetings which we hope will inspire them to take a position, perhaps banning FGM and, in any case, to warn newly-weds about the dangers of FGM. We are also training media people, who will all create radio messages about excision, which we will air on 10 stations. Doctors and nurses will learn about FGM and we hope they will counsel their patients against it. Outreach to youth will feature sports and cultural competitions in which students will be invited to create plays, songs or some kind of artistic expression on the subject of FGM. Victims of FGM will get help getting treated and a system of referral for them will be developed in a series of meetings. Billboards will go up with anti-FGM messages around Bamako. We hope that each of the four neighborhoods where we are working will decide to ban FGM in their area. In this case, we will help organize ceremonies to mark these decisions and will be sure they get lots of media attention. To read and watch a copy of the TV news report, click here.

Because of our project there, the city-wide commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM was held in District I. It was on the news on February 7, 2012. To read and watch it, click here.

At the end of 2007 we worked on a similar project in our part of Bamako, District V. We held training meetings with the authorities of the district. After the meeting, in early 2008, we organized a march to the city hall in collaboration with the officials, who said they were hoping to vote on a local ban on FGM. We still hope they do. As part of the same project, we held trainings for health workers and excisers. All the excisers who were there gave up the practice.

We did a similar project in District IV later in 2008 and one of the most important results of that effort was a group of imams that started preaching our message.

Religious Leaders' Involvement

A group of imams from District IV, who came to a meeting we organized at their city hall, asked us to help them create a common message that they promised to preach in all the 160 mosques in District IV. Friday May 15, 2009 was the first such preaching. The young imams had spread the word that there would be a major message about FGM and about 1,000 people came, about twice the normal number. The leader of the imams of District IV, Massoum Traore, preached the message and apparently was very eloquent and won a lot of people over to our point of view.

In a large celebratory, late-night gathering celebrating the birthday of the prophet Mohamed, on February 26, 2010, 8 leading imams from District IV urged about 2,000 worshippers to abandon the practice of FGM.

Clubs

A number of our activists have created clubs to participate in our campaign. Clubs around Koulikoro, a town close to Bamako, have been very active. They have collected lots of signatures on the Plede Against Excision, including those of the mayor and many important people of Koulikoro. A club at the university organized a big meeting and collected many signatures. Another, in N'Tomokorobougou, has worked for years educating their neighbors. The Club of Whole Women is a group of girls who are un-excised and proud to talk about it. They went on the radio in April '7 saying that they were rarely insulted and that, when it occasionally happens, they just laugh it off and say they are proud, which takes the wind out of the sails of the person who insulted them. In Dec 2007 they created a theater piece for the radio which became a video in 2009, which has been shown around Tominian in health centers.

Stories from our Campaign

To see pictures with stories about our project, see the Stories from our Campaign section.

Our Materials

Our Brochure

Pledge related:

Pledge Against Excision

Our handout Stop Excision, with quotes from religious leaders on the back

Excisers:

Certificate of Honor (for excisers who stop excising)

Villages:

Declaration of Moussala, our first village to stop excising (The other villages have adopted the same declaration.)

Music/Video:

Stop Excision album
View videos: I Abandon, Ca Fait Mal (It Hurts), Anko Fo “Ante!” (We Can Say “No!”), Sariya (the Law), and Takhoundi (Excision) in Sarokolé

Let's Stop Excising poster:

In English
In French (as it appears in Mali)