On March 30, the documentary Sarabah was honored with the “A Matter of ACT” Documentary Award at the “Movies that Matter” film festival in Den Haag, Netherlands. The documentary follows the life of Sister Fa, the Senegalese “Queen of Hip-Hop,” and her campaign to educate African communities about the risks of female genital cutting (FGC).
Scenes in the documentary, directed by Maria Luisa Gambale and Gloria Bremer, depict Sister Fa in a classroom asking youth about the reasons FGC is practiced in their communities and engaging in freestyle songs about the risks involved with the practice. She converses with men and women in the villages about their views on FGC abandonment and performs for large audiences, using lyrics to educate and empower young people to create social change.
During the festival, Sister Fa also participated in a panel discussion on the role of women in abandoning harmful traditional practices. Though she initially feared a backlash from communities for speaking out against FGC, Sister Fa chose to endure the risks she faced in order to raise awareness and increase education on the topic of FGC. The documentary’s international recognition in Den Haag lauds the impact Sister Fa has had in facilitating discussion about this harmful traditional practice.
On several occasions, Sister Fa has partnered with Tostan, using her music to raise awareness in communities where FGC is commonly practiced. On several tours through Senegal, the singer and her band performed music and held community discussions to reach out to youth, engaging and empowering them to participate in the movement to abandon FGC.
“We are not here to say that [FGC] is bad and they have to stop,” Fa explains in the film. “We just want to propose something else, to show it’s possible to educate your daughter without practices like this [one].”
Like Tostan, Sister Fa believes in providing information for educational purposes and allowing communities to make their own decisions. She shares Tostan’s belief in a respectful approach to sensitive community-based issues, the value of human rights, and the importance of empowerment through education. With hip hop music, Sister Fa includes youth and adolescents in community discussions, reaching the younger generation in terms they can relate to. “It is the community at a grass-roots level that decides to abandon FGC,” Fa emphasized.
To engage other artists in the region in the FGC abandonment movement, Tostan and Sister Fa will host a training program about Tostan’s human rights-based approach to FGC abandonment. Fifteen musicians from Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and The Gambia will participate in the seminar. These artists will then collaborate with Sister Fa & Band to record two new songs that address FGC in the musicians’ national languages, songs that will debut on Sister Fa’s 2012 tour.
As part of her “Education sans Excision” (Education without FGC) project, Sister Fa & Band has toured in Senegal in 2008 and 2010, breaking the taboo against speaking about FGC in public. The tour is scheduled to continue in January and February of 2012 and reach remote regions of Senegal around Kolda, Matam, Sédhiou and Podor.