Mamadou Diarra Camara is a Tostan supervisor who has been hosting radio broadcasts on a local radio station in the Sédhiou region of Senegal since January 2014. The global theme of his program is ending violence against women and children; similar programs have been broadcasted in the Kolda, Saint Louis, and Matam regions since January as well. Our partner Orchid Project funds the radio programs in the regions of Senegal that have the highest rates of female genital cutting (FGC) in the country. The radio shows help reinforce the awareness-raising capacities of four of the social mobilization teams working in the area during their monthly missions to villages in these regions to discuss FGC, human rights, and other topics.

Kanbeng FM, the radio station that diffuses Tostan Supervisor Diarra’s broadcasts, reaches 244 villages in the department of Bounkiling in Sédhiou. Tostan has long recognized that radio in Senegal is widely listened to in both cities and rural villages. It therefore plays a critical role in transmitting information, especially to isolated communities. Tostan uses radio shows to complement many of its different programs, ranging from topics related to the Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module to topics pertaining to the human rights-based Community Empowerment Program (CEP). With the support of the Orchid Project, a new wave of 26 radio shows in each of the four regions will be diffused over the course of the year that relate specifically to violence against women and children.

FGC is a central theme of his shows; Diarra told me that one of his shows was about “FGC and the law.” I asked him if anyone called in to the show; he said that FGC on the radio is a very sensitive topic and people are afraid to call and speak about it publicly. Despite this, he still received three calls over the course of the hour-long show. He received feedback from people who were unaware of the law prohibiting FGC in Senegal, which was voted and passed at National Assembly level in 1999. Diarra’s listeners told him that they had been misinformed on certain aspects of the law and that his program cleared up many issues.

When I asked Diarra if he felt like his radio programs were making an impact, he proceeded to tell me a story about something that had happened a few weeks ago that demonstrated the importance of the transmission of information about FGC via radio. At the end of his Saturday show, he received a personal call off-the-air from a listener telling him about a situation involving a girl from The Gambia being brought to a Senegalese village in the Sédhiou region to be cut. Bringing girls across the border to be cut “while on vacation” is not uncommon. The caller shared the location, prompting Diarra to ask the social mobilization agent Mariama Doumbouyo, who works in the Sédhiou region, to speak to the family.

By the time this information became known to Diarra and Mariama, the cutter disappeared and the girl returned to The Gambia. However, Mariama took the opportunity to speak with the girl’s mother as well as the family that lodged the girl while she was staying in the Senegalese village. Mariama talked to them about the law in Senegal prohibiting FGC and about the harmful consequences that result from the practice.

Diarra believes that his radio shows are having an impact because they help inspire people to speak out about FGC in their communities. The more people hear others speaking up about FGC, the more comfortable they will become with talking about it themselves. And in talking about it, they can begin to break down the misunderstandings surrounding the practice and understand the harmful consequences that result from its continuation.

Story by Allyson Fritz, Regional Volunteer, Tostan