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What’s the Message?

Monday, November 06, 2006 by Sam Davidson

With a new target, we need to make sure we have the right message. If we've got the right people, but are telling the wrong thing, then we're as ineffective as having the right words and the wrong ears.

Taking a page out of Gerry Mackie's playbook will help us design our appeal to the Janjaweed. In his article from 2000 titled "Female Genital Cutting: The Beginning of the End," Mackie details an approach used by Tostan to eradicate the practice of female cutting in Senegal in the 1990's. The approach also helped to end foot binding in much of China.

In both cultures, the abusive practice had been linked to deeply held cultural beliefs and a economic viability. With two seemingly insurmountable obstacles, how were Westerners able to convince locals to end a practice that was hundreds of years old?

A three-pronged approach of education, discussion and commitment helped end the abuse and show an alternative way for those cutting and those victimized.

Because cutting is directly linked to marriageability in many cultures, a village would have to make a written commitment to not cut their daughters and to encourage their sons to marry uncut women. Once this happened for as little a generation, the tide had turned and the method spread to other villages.

Similarly, for Darfur, a three-pronged approach is needed to convince soldiers that what they are doing is wrong. Once education of the Janjaweed happens (largely by appeal to commonality, which is next week's entry), then a small group can join together to put down their guns and pick up the proverbial olive branch of peace.

The commitment that needs to be made is one of peace out of the necessity for survival and the education campaign can be languaged and launched similar to the one used in Senegal. Next week, I'll discuss the appeal (method) that is to be used with the soldiers in order to elicit buy-in. This appeal will be based on a shared humanity that is just below the surface of all human conflict.

On Monday, December 4, this entry will be a rather lengthy paper, which is the culmination of one of my classes for the semester. The previous three Darfur entries have laid the basic groundwork, which will be detailed in my paper. At the end, I hope to present a viable and workable solution to ending the genocide in Darfur.


In hopes of raising awareness about the reality of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Sam Davidson writes every Monday about a key issue in an attempt to stop the atrocity. Doing so may not bring about a wave of change, but it is a small ripple that represents the tide that needs turning. He is the co-founder and President of CoolPeopleCare.

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