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GREFELS, or the Research Group on Women and Laws in Senegal, was founded in 1994. A feminist, non-political, non-religious and non-profit organization, the focus of GREFELS is to research women’s rights, advocate and support the expansion of human rights. It stemmed from the work of women engaged in Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), an international solidarity network. GREFELS works with local and national organizations to promote the rights for women. Through a multi-disciplinary approach, including research, training, and activism, GREFELS is committed to changing the behavior of institutions and rural communities in order to prevent violence against women.
One of the key issues that GREFELS campaigns against is the harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM was banned under the Senegalese penal code in 1999, as a part of a law on violence against women. The persistent practice of FGM occurs for a number of reasons, most often to subjugate women and control their sexuality. Thus, despite the ratification of the law eleven years ago, the practice persists, and 700,000 girls are still circumcised each year. GREFELS works to encourage girls to become involved in protection against FGM, through educating them about the risks and dangers of the practice. Through creating a network of support and advocacy for young women and girls, the group is actively fighting to eliminate the practice of FGM.
GREFELS integrates new media and technology through workshops and alerts, and uses blogs to manage communication around child protection, and to strengthen security protecting girls sent away by their families in Senegal to undergo genital mutilation. Thus, through the use of online alerts, children can inform the authorities if they are in danger of being moved to another country in order to have the procedure performed. This action is coupled with discussions in local languages organized by GREFELS on community radio stations, which aim to raise awareness about the dangers of FGM, through encouraging dialogue with medical professionals and religious scholars who oppose the practice, and who are able speak out about the adverse physical and mental health consequences for girls and women.