Many explosive remnants of war still endanger the lives of people living in Casamance–in the south of Senegal–and prevent internally displaced people from returning home.
Thanks to new funding from the American people, Humanity & Inclusion relaunched its mine clearance activities in Casamance in October 2018. By July 2019, our mine action teams expect to demine nearly 754,000 sq. ft. of land (the equivalent of 13 football fields) in the towns of Djibanar and Niagha, where some 22,500 people live; adding to the 4.3 million sq. ft. of land already cleared in the region since 2008.
Restoring land to communities
Twenty years after the ratification of the Ottawa Treaty by Senegal, more than 295 acres of land are still contaminated by anti-personnel mines and other explosive remnants of war in Casamance. This contamination dates back to the 1980s-1990s, when violent clashes occurred between the Senegalese army and Casamance independence fighters.
Contamination affects main roads, country lanes and, most importantly, a lot of farmland–a vital source of income for the region's inhabitants. Through its mine clearance activities, Humanity & Inclusion works to restore this land to the families who own it, allowing them to return in safety, to travel freely, and to farm without fear.
In the long term, these mine clearance activities aim to have a direct positive impact on the economic development of these districts and, indirectly, on the whole region. These positive changes should also encourage the return of some of the thousands of internally displaced people who fled Casamance, and who have been afraid to return home.
A historical presence
Humanity & Inclusion has been present in Senegal since 1996. We started working in Casamance in 1999 in order to provide mine casualties with physical and psychological rehabilitation care and to inform local communities on the risks associated with explosive remnants of war.
In the following years, our teams implemented a large-scale survey to determine and define with people living in 82 municipalities in Casamance the areas presenting a particular risk, and those to be cleared as a priority.
In 2008, based on the results of these surveys, Humanity & Inclusion launched its first weapons clearance activities in Casamance. To date, we are the only humanitarian organization engaged in mine clearance operations in Senegal. Learn more about our work in Senegal.
Inclusive Education for all | My chance to tell world leaders not to leave children with disabilities behind
This post was written by Monique Guenoune and originally appeared on the Global Partnership for Education's blog.
My name is Monique Guenoune and I am 23 years old. I live in Rufisque, a small town close to Dakar. I was born deaf, along with 4 of my 5 brothers and sisters. My parents are also both deaf and we use sign language to communicate in my family. Almost all of our family’s friends are also deaf.
It was difficult to get an education when I grew up. The local school did not accept children like me, because they thought we couldn’t learn; none of the teachers could use sign language and they weren’t trained in teaching deaf children.
An impossible choice: education or family
My father found out about a school for children with hearing impairments in Dakar, and I went there for a while, but I had to live away from home in a host family who treated me very badly. When my father found out about it, he came and brought me back home. He then inquired at a private school for deaf children, but he couldn’t afford to send me there. After this, I stayed at home and started to do some odd jobs like cleaning.
When a local association started to offer sign language literacy courses, my brothers and sisters started to attend. Transport was expensive and it was dangerous to travel along the busy roads with many horses, carts, and cars. My sister was hit by a horse along the way, because she couldn’t hear it coming. My dad decided it was best for all of us to stay at home and so none of the children of the family attended school.
A new program offers hope
Then in 2016 a community-based worker – Babacar – called our house. He could sign and told us that the local school was now becoming inclusive. The teachers were being trained in sign language and in inclusive teaching methods, and he himself had been recruited as a teaching assistant to support the deaf children and the teacher in class.
Now my younger brother and sister (both still primary aged) would be welcomed there! I was so pleased that they had been given the chance that I never had. My sister is doing so well there now, she is at the top of her class! She is showing everyone that being deaf doesn’t stop you from making it to the top.
Monique's sister Marieme and her classmates at an inclusive school in Senegal.
A chance to speak up in front of world leaders
People from Humanity & Inclusion, who support this inclusive school, came to my house with a sign language interpreter and they told me about an important education conference happening in Dakar.
I found out that it was a huge international conference, with world leaders, coming to talk about the importance of education and how they needed to spend much more money on education to make sure that ALL children have the chance to go to school.
They asked if I could speak at the conference about the importance of education for children with disabilities, on behalf of my younger siblings and all the children with disabilities in Senegal. I was very honored to do that, although a little bit nervous at first since I have never attended a conference, let alone spoken at one!
Getting the necessary resources for inclusive education
But once I understood what I needed to say, and that people just wanted to hear my story and the story of my siblings, I felt more relaxed. It was exciting to be part of the youth forum and to give my opinion when they asked questions about what needed to go into the youth statement. I was very pleased that all the other youth advocates in the room listened to what I had to say, through my interpreter, and they included my points in the statement.
I made the point that teacher training should include a focus on sign language and on trainings for children with all types of disabilities, and that children with disabilities should be able to go to school.
The next day I was on stage twice. I was pleased that the audience seemed to be interested in what I was saying. The moderator asked me who should be the best person to champion inclusive education in Senegal. And I said the economics minister, as he is the man with the money, and money is what we need to make sure every child gets an education!
After this session, I gave an interview and lots of people seemed interested to hear my story. It was exciting that people wanted to hear what I had to say. Some people also were interested to learn some basic signs, including some of my new friends from the youth forum.
All children deserve an education
My two days at the conference were an exciting and a new experience, and a real change to my everyday life. In fact this conference has given me a new focus to renew my own education as an adult.
I was glad to have the chance to bring my message to such a big audience and to hopefully make a difference.
I want people to realize that children with disabilities, like deaf children, have just as much right to go to school as any other child.
They shouldn’t be left behind any more. I am glad things are changing, from the days when I went to school, and was forced to drop out.
Launched in 2011, the six-year mine action project in Casamance, has freed more than 160,000 sq.m of land – equivalent to 26 football fields! The threat from mines and explosive remnants of war–the legacy of a pro-independence conflict in the region in the 1980s and 1990s–has now been lifted for more than 1.5 million people across 12 villages.Read more
People with disabilities often have a difficult time finding salaried employment. Workplaces are usually poorly adapted to working with people with disabilities and oftentimes they are not properly accessible. However, the biggest obstacle facing people with disabilities in the workplace is prejudice. Many employers are convinced that people with disabilities lack proper skills and are unable to positively contribute to the company.Read more
Boubacar, 33, had polio as a child and now needs crutches to walk. Originally from Casamance in southern Senegal, Boubacar moved to Dakar after completing his baccalaureate, leaving his mother, six brothers, and sisters behind. After studying public law and receiving a master’s degree in migration rights, he started looking for work, but the discrimination he faced because of his disability made it difficult.Read more
Since 2012, Handicap International has been improving the school enrollment and attendance of 170,000 children with disabilities in nine West African countries through the “Promoting the Full Participation of Children with Disabilities in Education” (APPEHL) project. Sandra Boisseau, who coordinates APPEHL from Dakar, Senegal, explains what the organization is doing to remove obstacles to education for these children.Read more