On June 6th, 2013, 25 Community Management Committees (CMCs) from Mauritania crossed the river into Senegal accompanied by Mauritanian government representatives to participate in a cross-border meeting with community members in Senegal. This meeting, organized to discuss gender-based violence, brought together members of connected cross-border social networks to share what they have learned through Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) and work together to find ways to improve life in their communities.

The CMC members from both countries met up in the village of Waladé in the Fouta region of northern Senegal, and began the meeting with a reading from the Koran by a local religious leader. Three CMC Coordinators from Mauritania then spoke to the crowd about how they had used what they had learned through the CEP to bring positive changes to their villages, using human rights principles and their new knowledge about democracy, problem solving, health and hygiene. Demba Diop, a CMC coordinator from the village of Mbagne, described how through the program people in her village had learned “the importance of vaccinating children, how to prepare an oral rehydration solution, the harmful consequences of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage, and about the rights of women and children.”

Representatives of the CMCs from Senegal then stood up and spoke about what had changed for them since they had begun the program. Diariata Diop, a CMC member from Waladé spoke about how she appreciated how the Tostan program had contributed to the spread of literacy as well as increased respect for women and children throughout the region.

Community members from both countries then divided into several mixed groups, with both Mauritanians and Senegalese represented in each, to discuss gender-based violence, how it affected their communities’ wellbeing, and potential solutions to the problem.

After many long discussions, each group shared what they had talked about – revealing many gender-related issues they encountered in their communities: large family sizes, poverty, close birth spacing, FGC, and child/forced marriage. Following real examples of how these issues affected their communities, each group then spoke about how their CMCs planned to address these problems through awareness-raising campaigns on health and human rights, organizing theatrical performances to teach community members about these issues, and held additional intervillage meetings to share knowledge and experiences.

Read more (in French) about this cross-border CMC meeting in the Mauritanian online newspaper CRIDEM in an article by journalist Abdoulaye Dia.