As part of Tostan’s participation in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign (November 25 – December 10), 15 communities participating in the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) collaborated with Tostan’s Peace and Security Project to organize an awareness-raising event on December 9 in the community Diégoune in the Region of Ziguinchor, Senegal.
This event was part of the activities carried out by the Peace and Security Project, launched in April 2012. The Peace and Security Project is looking to scale up Tostan’s proven grassroots strategy of community-led development to improve peace and security in the West African region.   
The event, built around the central theme “Violence against women remains an obstacle to peace,” aimed to raise the awareness among authorities, the media, and communities on violence against women and its negative consequences. It also showed how Tostan’s human rights-based Community Empowerment Program has contributed in addressing several forms of gender-based violence and how this can ultimately lead to more peace in the home, the community, and beyond.
Through the CEP, participants learn about their rights to health and freedom from all forms of violence, including gender-based violence. The CEP also focuses on violence prevention through improved communication and problem-solving skills as well as the peaceful resolution of community and familial conflicts.

The CEP’s human rights education has often led community members to present issues of domestic violence to authorities in their communities, to take action to raise awareness of the problems, and to make collective decisions, such as sanctions, to put an end to such practices. Strengthened by their knowledge, CEP participants have also begun movements for the abandonment of harmful traditional practices such as female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage.  

The event in Diégoune was attended by several local authority and civil society representatives, including several members of the Women’s Platform for Peace in the Casamance and regional partners such as the  West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP).

Local and regional media stations and journalists had the opportunity to exchange with community members, Tostan representatives, and partners, such as the Women’s Platform for Peace in the Casamance, on the actions undertaken to promote the abandonment of violence against women and to contribute to a more peaceful society.

The event started with a march during which participants captured the audience’s attention with poems, songs, and dances about the importance of abandoning violence against women for a more peaceful society. The Village Chief of Diégoune then opened the ceremony and stressed that there cannot be development without peace. After having welcomed the participants, the local Imam referred to the impacts and results of the CEP in Diégoune and prayed for a successful day.
Mory Camara, Peace and Security Project Coordinator, gave background information on the 16 Days of Activism Campaign and explained the objectives of the December 9 event. Following his speech, Thiam Ndèye Marie Diédhiou from the Women’s Platform for Peace in Casamance praised the contributions of Tostan’s community-based approach to the promotion of the abandonment of several forms of violence against women. She urged Tostan to continue its excellent work in the region in order to contribute to peace in the Casamance. Moussa Sow, WANEP National Coordinator in Senegal, agreed that the empowerment of grassroots communities is the right approach for promoting peace and security.
The Regional Governor and Deputy Prefect closed the event in addressing the importance of strengthening synergies between the different actors in the region working to eliminate violence against women. As women play an important role for the development of the region, the country, and beyond, they called for all women to unite for peace.
Learn more about Tostan’s human rights-based program as well as upcoming Human Rights Declarations in Guinea-Bissau.