On May 28, 2014, the Tostan regional coordination in Kaoloack and local communities, along with the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Government of Senegal, organized a march in Ndoffane, a town located 30 kilometers from Kaolack, to raise awareness about early childhood development.
The event which was called ‘march of the kangaroos’ highlighted the benefits of using the ‘kangaroo method’ to carry babies, in which the baby is strapped to one’s front to promote parent-child interaction. Guests in the march included community members from Ndoffane, participants in the Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module, the RPP program facilitator, a religious leader, a member of the School Management Committee, a member of the Community Management Committee (CMC), and two expert primary caregivers from each of the 40 communities participating in the RPP module, who distributed 150 ‘kangaroos’ or cloths cut in the shape of kangaroo pouches, provided by Tostan, and demonstrated the “kangaroo method”.
Leading up to this event, staff members from the Tostan regional coordination of Kaolack went on a week-long caravan in seven communities to raise awareness about the importance of early childhood development for the Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module. The caravan, called ‘the night of baby-ology’, brought together 128 communities who were given the opportunity to watch and discuss a short film by Harvard University outlining key concepts of the developing brain. The content was translated into Wolof and discussion was facilitated on why quality parent-child interactions are critical in helping the child’s brain establish connections between neurons, thus enabling it to develop to its full potential. At the end of each session, participants were enthusiastic and walked away feeling empowered with new knowledge. “Now, you [the community] understand what we have been learning in the Tostan class and its importance,” explained a program participant in the village of Keur Bakary.
On the day of the march, Imam Ratib of Ndoffane opened the ceremony at the public square in Ndoffane. Several local authorities spoke at the opening ceremony, including the governor of Kaolack, a representative of the mayor of Ndoffane, six delegates from the neighborhood of Ndoffane, the village chief of Ndoffane, a representative from Ndoffane’s women’s council, and the prefect of Kaolack. The representative of the mayor spoke about the vulnerability of children under the age of six and the need to ensure their protection against all forms of violence. Fatma Sakho, an expert primary-caregiver from Ndobène, shared her experience participating in the RPP module and how the home visit from her village’s facilitator taught her how critical quality interactions between her and her baby can be. “Even after the program finishes, I will continue conducting home visit for other parents, teaching them what I learned,” she said. She was followed by Imam Mouhamadou Kane, a religious expert for Tostan in Kaolack, who spoke about the way in which the prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) educated his own children and how parents today should utilize his model of non-violence.
The march began at the city hall with participants carrying banners reading ‘March of Kangaroos: promoting interaction for early childhood development,’ and ‘A non-violent education is good for the children and good for the community.’ As the approximately 600 participants walked around Ndoffane, onlookers watched eager to learn about the theme behind the march.
The day concluded with a skit performed by a group of adolescents, who collaborated with Social Mobilization Supervisor Bakary Faye, on the importance of promoting parent-child interaction with both the mother and father. After the skit, the representative from Ndoffane’s women’s council spoke about her support for abandoning violence against children and Tostan Kaolack Regional Coordinator Rose Diop gave a short address providing an overview of the RPP program. The governor of Kaolack then closed the ceremony. Afterwards, the participants headed back to their communities to spread the RPP message promoting parent-child interaction.