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Awa fights against genital mutilation in Senegal

Health Prevention Rights

Awa is raising the awareness of young men and women about sexual health issues in Kolda, Senegal. Her objective? For everyone to have access to the information and the health services they need.

Awa stands looking at a person standing in front of her, whose t-shirt sleeve features a HI logo. Behind her, a wall with paintings of a young girl who hides her face with her hands, another who is pregnant, a third who is crying while two hands prevent her from speaking.

Awa Diassy is a peer educator working as part of Humanity & Inclusion's ENSEMBLE project in Senegal. | © A. Faye / HI

Trigger Warning: This article discusses female genital mutilation and sexual violence.

Awa posing in front of a mural painted to raise awareness to sexual violence . © A. Faye / HIIn 2017, Awa joined the Conseil Ado Center, a Humanity & Inclusion partner that provides advice and guidance to young survivors of violence. There, she received training in sexual health, communication, leadership and personal development. With the knowledge and skills she acquired,  Awa set up a girls' club in her neighborhood. She organized numerous activities and, thanks to this experience, became a peer educator for HI.

"I joined the center because I wanted to take part in the fight against female genital mutilation, of which I myself am a survivor. In 2010, I saw that my little sister had been excised. The mutilation went badly wrong: she hemorrhaged and almost lost her life. That's what motivated me to join the center. I told myself that I had to do everything I could to ensure that our little sisters, and all the little girls who come after us, never suffer the same fate. As a survivor, I can go out and talk to parents about the consequences of this practice."

As a young woman leader, Awa eventually managed to talk to her grandmother, who had different ideas about the practice and had at first totally refused to discuss it with her. It took a long time, but Awa eventually managed to change her mind.

"I've also been able to do activities with young girls, who encounter a lot of problems in the community. Most of the girls are victims. To solve this problem, we need to put them in the spotlight. Many girls suffer in silence; I have to speak on behalf of those who don't have the chance to express themselves.”

Awareness-raising is paying off

As part of its ENSEMBLE project, HI has trained 40 peer educators in sexual and reproductive health. Over the past year, they've raised awareness among 1,098 young people in the Kolda region.

"In our communities, there's a breakdown in communication between parents and children. Young people lack information. Today, my duty is to go out there and raise their awareness, inform them about the consequences of early marriage, early pregnancy and female genital mutilation," explains Awa.

A talk organised with young people in Kolda. © A. Faye / HIFor her, it's imperative to help young people understand that they have the right to go to the hospital and to access health services. Today, many young people have started going to centers and spaces for teenagers to obtain the information they need on reproductive health.

Awa is also committed to helping young girls learn about and adopt good menstrual hygiene, and avoid sexually transmitted infections. She advocates on behalf of girls living in more remote villages so that the activities offered by HI and other organizations are also available in these localities.

"Girls have understood that they have to take center stage. We're the ones who can break the taboo that persists between our parents and ourselves. We also have to show young boys that we have confidence in ourselves and that we're ready to make a difference. We want to have access to decision-making bodies and make our own decisions," concludes Awa.

Launched in 2020, the ENSEMBLE project improves access to sexual and reproductive health services and related rights, with a focus on women and adolescent girls, including those with disabilities. The project adopts a social and behavioral change approach based on the active participation of impacted populations and a gender-based analysis, including excluded groups such as people with disabilities. Funded by Global Affairs Canada, it is also being implemented in Togo and Ivory Coast, in partnership with CARE Canada.
To date, the ENSEMBLE project has achieved the following results:

  • 207 community dialogues organized
  • 262 community health workers and  peer educators trained
  • 2,382 recipients of contraceptive services
  • 23,635 participants in awareness-raising
  • 3 countries covered: Togo (maritime region), Ivory Coast (Gbeke region) and Senegal (Kolda region).
Date published: 08/31/23


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