/** headlines: 118.0 **/
** Topic: FGM/Senegal [End in Sight for Excision?] **
** Written 10:39 AM Jun 24, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 9:33 AM Jun 21, 1996 by email@example.com in igc:women.violence */
/* ---------- "FGM/Senegal" ---------- */
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Marie-Helene Mottin-Sylla)
5- 7 June, the small village of Sare Yoba Kani in the rural community of Salikegne 20 km south of Kolda, the regional capital of the middle Casamance river valley in Senegal, was the site of a village seminar to discuss the future of excision.
Two ethnic groups live in the Fouladou region, the Fulah and Mandinkas. Both practice excision. The predominant religion is Islam. The seminar was an initiative by the Sare Yoba Kani villlage community action and development programme (PADEC/SYK) which also caters for neighbouring communities in Guinea Bissau (the border runs two kilometres from the village). The meeting received the financial support of CI-AF Geneva, (the Inter African Committee on Traditional Practices affecting women's and children's health).
This kind of meeting is the logical consequence of work being undertaken for several years by ENDA-SYNFEV (Synergy, gender and development) and Enda ACAS (Initiatives in Casamance), two teams of the international environment and development organisation ENDA Tiers-Monde based in Dakar Senegal and supported by CI-AF. The work over the years includes statistical research, national, regional and inter-regional meetings, international networking, and thematic and local actions. Since they were involved from the early stages of the process, the populations of Sare Yoba Kani wanted delicate questions such as excision to be dealt with within their local environment.
Many village members had lost a wife or a young daughter and young fathers are now wondering whether they should take a stand against the excision of their daughters and if so how, and using what arguments.
There were public discussions for three days which involved the quasi-totality of the villages concerned and from neighbouring communities. Many different sectors had the possibility to make their voice heard: local female circumcisionists, local authorities, local public health and women's health authorities, religious leaders, and people clued in to anti-excision activism on a national level and legal experts. The debates went on from morning till evening, continuing into the night. This was possible due to the fact that the harvest season had not yet started.
The degree of co-operation from all sectors of the village society showed that this was an issue that people wanted to see discussed publicly even if as one of the traditional big-men said "we always knew that it was a dangerous and unnecessary practice but we didn't know what to do".
The contributions were translated into Fulah, Madinka, Wolof, French and Guinea Bissau Creole thanks to the assistance of the local vigilant polyglots. There were detailed contributions on human physiology and reproductive biology, and the immediate and long term medical and economic consequences of excision.
For example, the head physician of the Kolda medical district spoke of a study of 250 women giving birth for the first time in the regional hospital showed that 56% of them were excised and that 80% of these excised new mothers had to be transferred to the hospitals in Zuiguinchor and Tambacounda (four hours on bad roads) due to complications which could not be dealt with by the Kolda hospital. Men are quick to talk about the high costs of the medicines needed to look after their women and the costs of excising their daughters. Surprisingly there were very few cases of girls being brought to the hospital at the time of the excision, despite the large number of accounts of girls dying the day after their excision.
Two local religious leaders explained in detail that Islam does not demand that girls be excised. Female circumcisionists told the meeting that they did not go out looking for " clients " but acted in response to demands by families. They recognised the fact that it was their livelihood and asked how they were supposed to live if they did not practice the profession they inherited. The villagers retorted that if families no longer brought the girls to be excised then the excisionist would just have to go out and find other work like all the other women in the village.
The village group found the legal information on excision in Senegal and world-wide interesting but said that they would not draw on legal structures available to them accept perhaps to use them as a threat to protect their daughters from excision even if they don't ever actually call for their implementation.
An action plan was drawn up to share the information and recommendations emanating from the seminar, focusing primarily on health and religion for the Kolda region in particular but extending into Guinea Bissau and the Gambia.
--- MacWoof Eval:13Nov92
* Origin: Marie Helene's point (5:7711/1.12@fidonet)