Children sitting around a fire
What are social norms?

Female genital cutting is part of a social norm on getting married. A social norm is something that many people in a society agree on. If someone chooses to do things differently, usually people have something to say about it.

Social norms can be a good thing. For example, the idea that you should hold the door for people coming after you, or leave your seat on the bus for an older person, or pregnant woman. To not throw litter on the street or in and nature is also a social norm. However, there are harmful social norms too.

In many societies, in different cultures and faiths, there is a social norm that a girl has to be cut in order to be able to get married. This is a thousand-year-old tradition, and nobody knows where it came from. It just is. The program run by Molly Melching and Tostan gives participants information on human rights and on how dangerous it is for girls and women to be circumcised. They get to talk to imams, who explain that female genital cutting is a tradition and it is not mentioned in the Koran.
In order to put a stop to this tradition, many people have to decide on a new social norm, together. The new norm is that a girl should not have to be cut in order to be married.a/

This is how this social norm is changed in the Tostan villages:
1. Old social norm: Girls are cut and married off young.
2. Tostan training: Children and adults discuss and learn new things together.
3. Raising awareness: Adults and children from several villages raise awareness and discuss the issue together.
4. Shared decision: Stop female genital cutting and child marriage in our village!
5. New social norm: Girls go to school, no cutting or child marriage in the village!


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