Up to 92% of girls in Mali undergo female genital mutilation: clitoral amputation, excision and, at times, infibulation. 76% of women and 70% of men -- German development agency statistics - support the practice. Because FGM thrives by threats to those who wish to stop it -- example: no husband -- abandonment requires consensus among practitioners. Successful persuasion needs inter-generational dialogue, the approach of the Caravan project. Healthy girls will enhance the quality of life for all.
Persuasion is key. Caravans permit young women and men to speak with opinion-leaders and ordinary citizens in Bamako districts and regional villages: school principals, mayors, elders, imams, mothers, market-women, children. Courageously opposing FGM by telling personal stories of pain, disability and death witnessed among family and friends, the youth draw their audience into discussion. They correct mistakes -- i.e. that FGM purifies for prayer -- and show how it undermines development goals.
Immediate beneficiaries are young girls still intact who will be spared, for instance, excruciating pain on amputation of the clitoris; damage to adjacent genital organs; recurrent urinary tract infections; possible incontinence; and later, as women, harrowing childbirth; risk of brain damage to the infant; and unfulfilled sexual lives that impact on the quality of marriage. Economic development is impeded by injuring future women; it will be enhanced with girls' increased good health.