Since 2007, Tostan France has established links between Tostan communities in Africa and their diaspora counterparts in Europe through awareness-raising events and the implementation of a modified Community Empowerment Program (CEP).
This spring, Bakary Tamba, Regional Coordinator for Tostan Senegal in the Casamance region of Senegal, traveled to Europe to accompany Tostan France in an awareness-raising tour across Italy and Spain. The tour aimed to facilitate conversation with diaspora communities about human rights, peace and security, and the abandonment of harmful traditional practices, such as female genital cutting (FGC).
As part of the tour, Tostan France organized a meeting in the town of Conegliano, Italy in collaboration with Diamoral, a Diola solidarity association, and the Federation of Casamance Associations Abroad (Fédération des associations Casamançaises à l’etranger (FACE)). Using Tostan human rights posters as teaching tools, Bakary explained each of the nineteen human rights in Diola to those in attendance. In addition, he talked about FGC, family law, and issues of integration in Italy. One woman in the audience stood up and advocated for equality between men and women in response to Bakary’s presentation.
Community discussions on human rights, such as this one led by Bakary, extend the reach of Tostan’s work in Africa to countries abroad, making the collective abandonment of harmful practices much easier. Now, for example, Diola communities in Italy are much closer to organizing their own public declaration for the abandonment of FGC.
After visiting Italy, they traveled to Spain and held a discussion session about human rights and FGC with nearly seventy Sub-Saharan immigrants in collaboration with Associació de Dones Immigrants Subsaharianes (ADIS), a local women’s association . Conversations were held in three different African languages as well as Spanish and Catalan. Many participants questioned the reality of FGC abandonment in Africa, and the Tostan France team and Bakary were able to provide information and evidence that African communities are indeed abandoning the practice.
While Tostan France and Bakary received positive feedback and support from many participants at the meeting, some remained skeptical. A Fulani woman argued in favor of FGC for reasons of maintaining ethnic identity, and a local imam also objected to abandoning the practice. But other encouraging moments illustrated that while much awareness-raising remains to be done, Tostan’s work is making an impact on members of diaspora communities in Europe. Social workers present expressed their willingness to be involved in awareness-raising activities about human rights, and Senegalese participants shared their conviction that FGC should indeed be abandoned.
A seminar about FGC took place in conjunction with the meeting and was attended by approximately sixty immigration and social services professionals. While Catalan organizations and policy makers are already in the process of addressing FGC, Tostan was able to provide additional information on the processes and procedures of other European countries as well as the social mechanisms for abandonment as understood by Tostan in Africa.
Click here to read this story in French on Tostan France’s website.