During a recent visit to New York City for the Women in the World Summit, human rights activists Imam Demba Diawara and Abdoulie Sidibeh visited the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women in Bronx, New York.
Sauti Yetu, meaning “our voice” in Swahili, is a nonprofit organization committed to connecting social justice activism with academic scholarship to promote the rights of African women and girls. Demba and Abdoulie shared their voices and passion for human rights with the Sauti Yetu staff and demonstrated that, irrespective of gender, men can be key advocates for women’s empowerment.
Both Demba and Abdoulie work tirelessly to better the health and well-being of women and girls in their communities. In support of Tostan’s model, Demba travels from village to village in his home country of Senegal to facilitate dialogue that promotes the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage. From the Gambia, Abdoulie, an enthusiastic Tostan CEP participant, mobilizes his social network to support women’s rights through awareness-raising events. Specifically, he served as a key organizer of the 3rd Annual Gambian Youth Caravan this past October.
Sharing Tostan’s commitment to open discussion and dialogue, Demba and Abdoulie eagerly embraced the opportunity to have a conversation about women’s rights with fellow activists at Sauti Yetu in New York. Demba and Abdoulie discussed Tostan’s approach to ensuring human rights are respected and lauded the energetic movement that African women, men and youth are leading to abandon harmful traditional practices. Broadening the reach of these movements, Sauti Yetu staff members shared their organization’s mission to involve immigrant populations in human rights movements abroad.
Similar to Tostan, Sauti Yetu is comprised of a diverse team from many African countries – Senegal, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Tanzania – as well as the United States. As evidence of the shared values and goals of the two organizations, one of Sauti Yetu’s staff is a former Tostan team member, Kathryn Fair.
Kathryn shared a particularly moving moment during the visit when Demba, who is a respected religious leader in his community, blessed all in attendance. Kathryn recalled, “For many of our non-African and non-Muslim staff, this was the first time they had ever been blessed by an imam. The room was silent and everyone had chills. We were honored to have them as guests at Sauti Yetu.”