13 communities from the department of Thiès gathered in the Somone, Senegal on April 10 for an intervillage meeting to discuss violence against children in school establishments and in their communities. Each of these communities had previously participated in Tostan’s nonformal education program as well as the Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module focused on improving early child development. This gathering followed the interzonal meeting that took place on March 23-24 in the Kaolack region to prepare communities for a community engagement ceremony.

Among the participants at this intervillage meeting were the mayor of the municipality of Somone El Hadji Boucar Sadji, the department supervisor of the Directorate for Early Childhood Development, the department supervisor for community development, 13 village chiefs who participated in the RPP module, 13 religious leaders, 13 Community Management Committee (CMC) members, eight expert primary caregivers, three school directors, 13 Tostan facilitators, and three Tostan project staff.

Several key themes were discussed by the participants during the meeting including: (1) how the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) educated his children; (2) what alternative methods of discipline are available that still respect children’s rights and parental rights, (3) how a community can ensure children’s safety; and (4) what the community can do to explain to authorities the importance of early childhood development.

Imam Mademba Diop, a delegate from the Zone Sonatel in the municipality of Mbour, spoke about the importance of this intervillage meeting, which he believes teaches the proper way to educate children according the recommendations of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH). Islam requires of all children to be educated and disciplined to the right extent. For him, the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) educated children the correct way. He said, “This meeting allows us to improve some of our traditional parenting practices, but also practices in Koranic schools, in other educational establishments, and in our daily lives.” He concluded by saying that “after this meeting, each of us will see our capacities improve and we’ll serve as agents of change to mobilize communities and reach all levels of society in the department of Mbour.”

According to Marie Auguste Sall, a Tostan Thiès staff member, this meeting was important because it enabled the different attendees to share and discuss these issues in order to gain their “total support” to abandon violence against children ahead of the ceremony. The end of the intervillage meeting was marked with signing of ‘The Somone Resolution to Protect Children’ by 97 participants, collectively showing their commitment to these issues.