SENEGAL: Is the end in sight for excision in Fouladou?
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
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
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)