Two months ago, the Orchid Project provided tablets to four teams of social mobilization agents throughout four regions of Senegal. These teams are working towards total abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) in Kolda, Sedhiou, Matam, and Saint-Louis by going on monthly awareness-raising missions and facilitating social mobilization activities such as radio programs, intervillage meetings, and organized diffusion.  In the short time since the social mobilization agents have started using the tablets, these tools have helped not only document the work they are doing through video, photos, and digital note-taking but also have promoted organized diffusion. Tablets provide visual proof to the communities that neighboring communities are agreeing to abandon harmful traditional practices.

For the social mobilization agents in Kolda and Sedhiou, who neither have a computer or a camera, these tablets enable them to perform tasks digitally and give them technological mobility during their 12-day long monthly missions in the field. According to the supervisors, Thierno Yaya Diallo from Kolda and Abdoulaye Kebe from Sedhiou, one advantage of the tablet is the photo/video function. After their first month in the field with their tablets, they each came into the office to share the images they had captured and the dialogues they had recorded. The photos and videos clearly portrayed the people with whom the teams had met and the discussions they had facilitated during community meetings.

While I had viewed the tablets as a tool primarily for documentation, Diallo explained to me how the images captured on the tablets were directly helping social networks decide to abandon FGC. He gave this example:  “We go into Village X, and we record the opinions of a key community member [on the topic of FGC]. Then we continue on to Village Y, and say we find someone who is opposed to abandoning FGC….” When they come across someone hesitant to abandon FGC, Diallo said they play the recorded testimony from Village X showing the community member speaking favorably about FGC abandonment. The person in Village Y can then see that an influential person from a neighboring village, a person they know personally, is ready to abandon FGC. This can be the catalyst that they need; seeing a video recording of someone in their social network reassures them that if they decide to abandon FGC, they will not be doing so alone and will not be ostracized for it.

I was excited for the teams when the tablets arrived because I knew how much they had wanted to be able to document the work that they were doing. I never realized the impact it would have in directly facilitating FGC abandonment. During their social mobilization missions, the teams can now show communities that FGC abandonment is happening all over Senegal, including in their own backyard, and that joining this social change movement will have a positive impact in their lives.

Story by Allyson Fritz, Regional Volunteer, Tostan