Since October 2012, Orchid Project has partnered with Tostan to create a series of strategic initiatives to reinforce the movement to abandon female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage. Social mobilization agents who work with Tostan reach out to non-class participants of the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in the Senegalese regions of Matam, St. Louis, Kolda, and Sédhiou.
To reinforce the new knowledge they learned through social mobilization activities, communities organize intervillage meetings where they can meet, share, and exchange ideas around the topics of harmful traditional practices. Intervillage meetings can also help sway previously reluctant communities to abandon these harmful practices.
Following the start of awareness-raising activities in the village of Thianfara Koba in Kolda, Senegal on May 18 and 19, 2014, a unique intervillage meeting was held on July 1. The meeting took place at the start of Ramadan, a sacred period of fasting in the Muslim faith, and stood out from the previous ones. Activities were conducted at a slower pace due to people’s lack of energy, and gratifying activities such as dancing and singing were frowned upon in the village. As a result, there were no animations, unlike the usual meetings, which feature singing, dancing, theatre sketches, and occasionally film screenings.
Despite this, attendance was high; only 50 people were expected to attend, but nearly 90 people showed up. Community members from Thianfara Koba offered the Kolda team a warm welcome and participants showed their enthusiasm for the meeting by thoroughly engaging in discussions.
Dienabou Diao, from the hosting village of Thianfara Koba, spoke about how her village abandoned the harmful traditional practices of FGC and child/forced marriage. She asked that these practices no longer be inflicted upon girls because they are not in a position to speak up against the practices. She added that girls should not be married off, and that a woman must be respected by being given the freedom to choose her own husband.
Nanding Gnabalé, a midwife from the same village, added that awareness-raising campaigns taught the people in her village about the harmful consequences of FGC and child/forced marriage. Because of the knowledge they gained about the health consequences of harmful traditional practices, they decided to abandon these practices.
Overall, every participant showed great positivity and enthusiasm, which helped make the meeting a success.
Story by Wendy Bongjoh, Regional volunteer in Kolda, Tostan