Blog by Ann-Marie Wilson and Tina Bellamy.
As Ann-Marie and Tina complete a busy week in Senegal and head on to Mali, they reflect on their visit and share some insights into the progress being made against FGM.
“Same continent, different county, a new experience,” comments Tina. “Senegal has a very different feel to Gambia; you can see and feel the French influence. Life in Dakar is busy and colourful. We are staying by a bustling fish market, which brings its own smells and sights as we go about our business. The roadside stalls provided more food with mangos, bread and nuts on offer. The chaotic traffic is a reminder of "The Arch de Triumphe" with car collisions an everyday event.”
Ann-Marie also enjoyed the Senegalese/French culture, taking a few moments to relax and reflect in a French coffee shop, La Brioche Doree, during an intense week of 17 meetings, held over 6 days. “It has been an hour to visit Senegal and share our research with over 100 key change agents, all able to affect ending FGM in Senegal via a separate domain of society. FGM affects 26% of the population here - rising as high as 92%in the South and East of the country. There is still a lot to do to end the practice but it is good to meet people committed to achieving this aim.”
On the day 28 Too Many’s Country Profile: FGM in Senegal report launched Ann-Marie and Tina were pleased to meet with the Minister of Families and the United Nationals Joint Project programme to end FGM. They were pleased to have a dedicated report on FGM across Senegal and invited Ann-Marie and Tina to a prestigious press launch and dinner the next day, to also share the report with UNICEF , AIDOS, Tostan and 50 other stakeholders in the campaign to end FGM. It was particularly useful to be able to meet representatives from the Government who form legislation and policy to end FGM, and the UN, who fund global strategies and help with the National Action Plan for key countries such as Senegal.
Another key group of actors is international NGO'S. Having met numerous times at conferences and summits in New York and London, Ann-Marie was delighted to be able to spend time and share strategies with Tostan, who have programmes in The Gambia, Mali and Senegal. She and Tina also met Peace Corps, Amnesty International's West Africa Coordinator and AIDOS, who use radio to reach illiterate women with FGM messages.
Another day they met the Professor of Psychiatry, Chief of Hann Hospital and a gynaecology team at the other lead hospital in Dakar. Health services are key to ending FGM so it was great to brief medical staff on the physical and psychological complications on FGM.
“Faith leaders and organisations are another key domain of society to affect change in ending FGM,” explains Ann-Marie. “We met teams from three international faith based NGO'S working across these three countries in West Africa to end FGM. Their staff now have the 28 Too Many reports to share with the key ethnic groups that practice FGM and I am so pleased that they find these helpful to their work.”
Finally, and most strategically, Ann-Marie and Tina met the Presidents of three indigenous associations working in women's health and across Senegal. “We briefed all of them, in French, and distributed our report,” said Ann-Marie. “They wish to partner with 28 Too Many in the future and we are delighted to assist as we can. Overall our visit to Senegal has felt hugely positive, and we see the seeds of change. These different domains of societal change can all affect FGM ending in Senegal and we are privileged to do our part to help that happen.”
As they prepare to depart Senegal Tina looks back over the week, “Our FGM journey continued through Senegal with interesting meetings and introductions to many inspiring people. They have embraced our report and our work within Senegal with gracefulness, gratitude, hope and amazement that 28 Too Many achieves so much on such limited funding. We leave encouraged by their courage and commitment.”
You can learn more about 28 Too Many’s work to end FGM and how you can help at www.28toomany.org. You can donate to support our research and campaigns and follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates on the global movement to end FGM.