A real breakthrough in a conservative region
30 communities in the commune of Linkering, in the Kolda region of southern Senegal, came together on Sunday, November 25, 2018, to publicly declare abandonment of harmful traditional practices, and show their commitment to the well-being of girls and women. The event represents a historical moment in this area, where the influence of conservative religious guides (marabouts) from nearby Medina Gounass remains very strong.
An exceptional turnout for the declaration
Community members travelled from all over to celebrate this important moment, along with local administrative staff and local authorities. Health professionals, Tostan staff, United Nations representatives (UNICEF), and the regional media were also present.
After the national anthem and opening prayers, community leaders addressed the public with speeches about social norms change and the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child marriage. Local Imam Abdoulaye Ba, the village chief of Linkering Moussa Baldé, and the community representative for all declaring communities Fatoumata Baldé, took it in turn to speak.
During the ceremony, the village vibrated to the rhythm of folk dances, music, traditional artists, and theatre groups. Young people from the community had prepared a dance performance, songs, poems and a sketch about FGC in which they played out a courtroom scene to show the medical and legal arguments for abandoning the practice.
Tostan staff noted the surprising and thus important presence of community members (mostly young people) from Medina Gounass, a religious center renowned for its reluctance to abandon FGC.
All of the communities involved, aware of the harmful effects of FGC and child marriage on the health and well-being of girls and women, have made the decision to abandon. Two young women were chosen to read the declaration statement: Binta Sow in French and Binta Kandé in Pulaar.
The human rights movement is rising!
The Linkering declaration was a great success, with around 800 people present on the day. The success of such a declaration in this region is a welcome sight and marks an important moment in the movement to abandon these harmful traditional practices in Senegal.