On December 30, 2013, Tostan’s regional coordination in Ziguinchor, southern Senegal, in partnership with local communities, organized a march to raise awareness about early childhood development.  The march also highlighted the importance of carrying babies strapped to one’s front to promote better parent-child interaction. The event, affectionately called ‘the march of kangaroos’ was attended by hundreds of parents and their babies from communities that are currently implementing Tostan’s Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) program. Religious leaders and administrative authorities also participated in the event, and neighboring communities sent large delegations to show their willingness to learn from the RPP project.

The day before the event, a cultural evening was organized with a screening of a film depicting how the human brain works. Dr. Ibrahima Giroux, psychologist and coordinator of the RPP project at Tostan explained the different kinds of human intelligences (emotional, social, psychomotor, linguistic, and logical-mathematical). He also talked about the various signals that enable the child to receive sounds and capture the information they need to act. The screening was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

On the day of the march, members of the participating communities gathered at the entrance of the village of Mahmouda Chérif, also known as the “Land of hospitality.” They walked to the Mahmouda Chérif public school where the local authorities met them. In the procession, as well as mothers and children under five, there were also older children and men carrying their babies strapped to their front.  In rural communities, where the tradition is that usually women will carry their babies strapped to their backs, the impact of the RPP project is already being felt.  

Upon arrival in Mahmouda Chérif, the marchers gathered first to listen to the prayers of the Mahmouda Chérif General Caliph. Following prayers, the Islamic religious leader stated that Tostan had agreed to organize the meeting at his request. He added that the scientific teachings of the RPP were in line with the teachings of the Quran about the education of children.

Dr. Ibrahima Giroux reinforced the importance of interacting with their children, to those present, and being lenient when they made mistakes. Finally, the Assistant Governor of Ziguinchor, Amadoune Diop, concluded the meeting by inviting all participants to disseminate the information they have received so that the learnings from the RPP project could have an impact on more communities.