Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Interview in ShelfAwareness with Aimee Molloy, author of HOWEVER LONG THE NIGHT

However Long the Night By Aimee MolloyShelfAwareness just published a great interview with Aimee Molloy, author of However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph. Molloy’s book follows America-to-Senegal-transplant Molly Melching and many Senegalese women as they worked together to improve Sengalese education, and bring an end to a deeply entrenched but dangerous cultural practice: female genital cutting (FGC).
Melching arrived in Senegal as a college exchange student from Illinois and decided to stay, having fallen in love with the country, and especially the villages outside the French-influenced city Dakar. Observing that all schools taught in French as opposed to the language the locals spoke at home—Wolof—Melching began to question traditional European standards of education, and worked with locals in order to tailor an education plan to what they wanted to learn, in their native tongue. This educational project, called “Tostan” or “breakthrough”, was a remarkable success. And the resulting empowerment of Senegalese women led to a highly unanticipated action on their parts: a movement to end the long-held practice of FGC.
Molloy, in her interview with ShelfAwareness, shares that she was very aware of the sensitivities that accompany any exploration of Melching’s story and FGC. She didn’t want to portray Melching as some “Great White Hope” because that’s not what she was—Melching did not come to Africa and single-handedly change anything. Rather, it was the collaboration, rooted in understanding, between Melching and the Senegalese people that made Tostan, and the eventual anti-FGC movement, work.
Furthermore, Molloy was cognizant of Western feelings on FGC—she admits that in the past, she felt anger and disgust towards anyone involved in it. But she also realized that in order to tell the story of the Senegalese women (some cutters turned activists), she had to look past Western preconceptions. Molloy relates that FGC was not borne from men’s desires to curb women’s sexual promiscuity. Rather, “The truth is that the tradition is one that is perpetuated by women themselves, and women do it in order to create a better future for their daughters. Because choosing to not cut one's daughter would be setting her up for a future of social isolation, it is in many way's a mother's greatest act of love. So regardless of the feelings we might bring to this issue, sensitivity to this reality must be part of any discussion about FGC, and certainly in any efforts to bring an end to the practice.”
It is this kind of approach, weary of Western biases, that makes Molloy’s book such a success. If you would like to read more about However Long the Night, please check out the full ShelfAwareness profile here.

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