The latest and greatest -- information, articles, and news from the Senegal gender ranks, including articles from our bi-yearly newsletter, The GAD Gab.
There is a saying in Wolof, one of the predominant languages in Senegal: Little by little, you catch the monkey. Senegalese like to catch monkeys because they often terrorize villages, but in the Peace Corps, we like to use that Senegalese idiom to remind ourselves that big change happens in little steps. Eventually, our projects will make a difference. Eventually, our Senegalese counterparts will find ways to use the knowledge we pass on. Eventually, we'll catch the monkey.
What's our monkey with SeneGAD work? Gender equality and awareness -- our goal is to work with Senegalese to create a society in which all people recognize their own capacities and have ways to use them. Volunteers find ways to remind their communities about this every day. In SeneGAD, we call these small pieces of work "Gad Deeds."
GADeed: /GAD - deed/ noun
1. An action or event that promotes gender development
2. Acuminating these will continue to promote gender equality
GAD Deeds can take on many forms: camps, school lessons, gardening, cooking, or a conversation, to name a ew. As Communications Coordinator Nicolette Ulrich points out,"Every time you remind a young person of the inequality that exists between men and women, not only here in Senegal but all over the world, you have just done a GAD Deed. There is no action too big or too small. Get creative and make each action count."
While every day could easily be filled with GAD Deeds, and perhaps already is for many volunteers, National Coordinator Marquel Ramirez has a challenge for Peace Corps Senegal volunteers. Calling it "The Power of 24," she is encouraging volunteers to report one GAD Deed to his or her SeneGAD regional representative each month. Each month adds up to 24 GAD Deeds during a typical two-year service, or a whole bunch of gender attitudes affected, challenged, and perhaps even changed.
"We have girls' camps held in every region we live," says Marquel. "We have Awa tournees that promote GAD issues. We have girls'sports teams and Michelle Sylvester Scholarship winners. We have volunteers who make SeneGAD shine... everyone is already contributing to the larger power of change."
SeneGAD's hope for "The Power of 24" movement is both to recognize the work that volunteers are already doing and inspire them to go even farther. By taking time each month to reflect on how gender development is an integral part of Peace Corps service, board members hope that volunteers will realize the importance of consistently engaging in it.
"The work of one person, doing one small effort, creates change for the better of the entire society," says Marquel. And she's right -- this small effort could result in over 200 gender activities each month and 2,000 in Senegal alone each year. This isn't to mention that GAD work often has a ripple effect: one seminar spearheaded by a Peace Corps volunteer could inspire a classroom full of students to go out and do some GAD Deeds of their own.
And so the monkey looms. What will you do to challenge gender inequality in Senegal? How about just 24 things?
While sitting under the neem canopy of Ann Marie Albright's compound after a long day of baptism celebration, a bright-eyed, precocious girl walked up to us, notebook in hand and asked for help with her math homework. Fama Diaw is a student in 3eme and is learning how to factor equations. Ann Marie helped her through the problems, and we had a long chat with an impressive amount of English. When I asked how she'd learned to speak English so well, she explained that she'd spent the summer in The Gambia. It wasn't a vacation, but a trip to see a healer, who was supposed to have a cure for AIDS.
Last year, as a 16-year-old student in 4eme, Fama got pregnant; her family was outraged- they insisted that she get married right away. Regardless of a recent illness, she was given to her cousin; she joined him and his first wife, and had her baby boy. Three months later, Fama lost her co-wife, husband, and son to an unknown illness over the course of just two weeks. That's when Fama took an AIDS test- it was positive.
After spending summer in The Gambia receiving treatment for her AIDS, Fama came back to Senegal, re-enrolled in school, and started visiting Ann Marie twice a week for English/GAD meetings. During their time together, Ann Marie and Fama chat, learn phrases like "strong independent women overcome obstacles," or listen to Beyonce?'s "Single Ladies." Fama also comes over whenever she needs help with homework- and Ann Marie is a patient tutor.
During an AIDS field day in Barkedji, designed to educate people in the village, Fama came to speak about her situation and about AIDS. For Ann Marie, Fama is an inspiration . "She's a beautiful human being," she says of Diaw.
Watching Fama's story unfold motivated Ann Marie and other Linguere-area PCVs to start a community-based AIDS education project, and has made us all realize how close to home AIDS and its harsh realities are. Ann Marie now focuses her energy on helping prevent anyone else from going through the early pregnancy, forced marriage, and the AIDS that hit Fama's life so hard.
Fama is bright, ambitious, and facing the challenges of whatever comes her way with the encouragement of a PCV: she is truly getting the most out of her education and situation.