On the final day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, on December 10th 2014, 39 communities from the regions of Kolda, Ziguinchor and Sedhiou, who participated in Tostan’s Peace and Security Initiative, gathered for a ceremony in Tankon in the region of Sedhiou to share the ways in which Tostan’s peace and security initiative promotes the respect for human rights, particularly of women and children, and raising awareness about gender based violence. These discussions also sought to engage traditional and religious leaders, and administrative authorities.

The ceremony opened with a march including all members from the three regions. Students, local community leaders, and Tostan staff also marched. Throughout the march, people chanted about the importance of human rights, ending violence against women and girls, child/forced marriage, and abandoning female genital cutting (FGC). The march concluded at the elementary school of the village, where the reading of a memorandum, and its symbolic hand-off to the sub-prefect of the Bogal municipality, Mr. Abass Ndiaye, took place. This memorandum was written on behalf of the female members of the peace committees and community management committees from the 39 communities represented. The memorandum further reaffirmed the women’s commitment to living in a world with zero tolerance for violence against women and girls; it gave the opportunity to these women to seek support from local and administrative authorities as well as the government, while at the same time recognizing the support of various partners including Tostan, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

The day continued with statements from local leaders from all three regions. Kadidiatou Seydi, the coordinator of the Community Management Committee (CMC) of Temento Samba—a  community in Kolda bordering the country of The Gambia—talked  about creating easier and safer access across borders. Prior to the creation of Peace Committees, crossing the border to the Gambia was difficult, but thanks to these Peace Committees, access to the country has been made easier. She also added that her community benefitted greatly from the Peace and Security project in regards to learning about their human rights. In consequence she encourages more collaboration with Tostan, especially with focus on women’s rights.

The CMC coordinator of Ndiamacouta in the region of Sedhiou, Sokhna Dia spoke about women’s rights, that discrimination against women continues in neighboring regions and it is important that these communities stand up to these injustices. She says that before, in her community, women were not allowed to attend meetings and were excluded from the decision making process. Now, women are included in all meetings and make decisions. She added, “Everything that a man says, a women can also say.”

Alassane Ndiaye, the chief of the community of Niaguiss in the region of Ziguinchor opened his speech with this quote from Albert Einstein “ The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything.” He pointed out that certain issues, such as robberies, cattle theft, and the arms trade, could not be solved by Peace Committees alone, and that the support of the government was greatly needed in the resolution of these problems. He further added “We have passed the stage of simply resolving conflicts; we must work on a deterrence strategy for violence to cease.” On violence against women he said, “Women are half of the world. If they are not in peace, the world will not be in peace. We must give peace to women in order to have a peaceful country and world.” He added “in order to empower a group of people, we must empower women. If we allow women to live in peace, Senegal and the world will also live in peace.” 

Overall, this campaign proved to be an edifying experience for participants about the potential of women and the limitations of that potential harbored through the violence perpetrated against them. It also served as an opportunity to enlighten these participants of the wonderful work achieved by the different committees, while at the same time of reminding them of how much more could be done especially with the support of the government.

By Valencia Rakotomalala, Communications Volunteer, Tostan