In 2007, I traveled to Dakar, Senegal to attend a very important ceremony. The community of Malicounda Bamabara’s was celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their commitment to abandon female genital cutting (FGC).

Never heard of FGC? Neither had I, until I met Molly Melching. Molly is the founder and executive director of Tostan, a non profit organization “dedicated to empowering African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights.” Tostan understands that lasting change must come from within a community. Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program educates people to make decisions for themselves and their communities. Thanks to Tostan, 6,000 communities in Africa have abandoned FGC and child marriages.

It is important for neighboring villages to make the commitment to abandon FGC together. Demba Diawara explained, “If others do not agree with the decision to end female genital cutting, we will have insurmountable problems. Our girls will have no husbands since this is an important requirement for marriage in our ethnic group.”

It is our responsibility to advance women’s rights around the world.

Featured image: Tostan Executive Director, Molly Melching (left), presents the human rights booklet to the community, project partners, and local government officials (Via