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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 August 2007, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Award for anti-mutilation charity
By David Bamford
BBC News Africa analyst

A girl undergoing circumcision
Female circumcision is widespread in many parts of Africa
An West African aid group campaigning to abolish female genital mutilation has been awarded the world's biggest prize for humanitarian work.

The Tostan organisation, based in Senegal, has been chosen for the Hilton Prize, worth $1.5m (740,000)

The organisation uses traditional song, poetry, theatre and dance to educate people in West African villages about the dangers of genital mutilation.

Prize judges said Tostan had nurtured new ways of dealing with the issue.

Tostan's 400 staff are mostly African workers.

Their grassroots approach has been key to dealing sensitively with an issue that involves convincing traditional communities they should move away from a long-maintained yet cruel cultural practice.

The Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, one of the Hilton prize jurors, said that Tostan's founder in Senegal, American-born Molly Melching, had nurtured a fresh approach by persuading a critical proportion of the population to agree with you and then act in unison.

The name Tostan is from the local Wolof language, meaning "breakthrough".

The prize is awarded annually by a foundation set up by the hotel entrepreneur Conrad Hilton.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
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SEE ALSO
Egypt forbids female circumcision
28 Jun 07 |  Middle East
Country profile: Senegal
21 Jun 07 |  Country profiles

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