Le soleil – January 14, 2009

Dynamic community action is currently revolutionizing attitudes related to many issues in the Casamance [Southern Senegal]. Rural women are now eager to visit health facilities to monitor their pregnancies to term. This is the case in the Fogny and Pacao districts of northern Casamance.

While women were previously reluctant to visit the health centers to regularly monitor their pregnancy, women in the regions of Ziguinchor and Sédhiou today understand that pre-natal consultation is of critical importance in managing their pregnancies.

The evidence collected in the field at health posts revealed that the taboo surrounding this issue has been relegated to the past in many localities in Casamance. Indeed, from Ouonck in Kalounayes, to Niadiène in Marsassoum, Diacounda and Bissary Kansoye in Sédhiou, women, despite having to walk long distances, now regularly visit the nearest health facility to receive checkups during their pregnancy.

In the Pacao, for example, the Chief Nurse of the Bissary Kansoye Health Post, Mr. Moustapha Sané, states that women now faithfully adhere to their scheduled appointments throughout their maternity. According to the women, this behavior change is due to the work of deeply engaged Community Management Committees established during the Tostan education program in different regions of the Casamance.

Indeed, thanks to the various efforts carried out by this organization devoted to non-formal education, women in rural areas are now conscious of behaviors that ensure good health among women of childbearing age.

Advocacy and social mobilization activities implemented by the various Community Management Committees have borne fruit. There are now less maternal deaths and fewer home births in many villages in the Casamance. The same is true for early pregnancy and forced marriage, according to Mariama Diedhiou, of Bissary Kansoye.

This change in behavior, directly observed in the field, has enabled women in the Fogny and Pacao to flourish and participate in other activities besides their daily farming activities. They have developed, through micro-credit support from Tostan, other income-generating activities.  According to the Regional Coordinator, Mr. Abdoulaye Diao, Tostan intends to continue this support elsewhere in Casamance to promote sustainable development and full emancipation of women in the southern part of Senegal.  
Article By:  Seydou Sadio Prosper

NB: Translation by Tostan staff.