Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sadie Kadlec - Senegal

Sadie Kadlec is a Senior studying French, International Relations, and World Civilizations at the U of U. She is participating in an IE3 internship in Senegal with Tostan, a human rights organization, during the 2010-2011 academic year.

The Dance and the Children

On October 2nd, the night of before the public declaration in Podor, Senegal, a region in which 66 Communities were about to declare their commitment to abandoning harmful traditional practices like female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriages, I attended a cultural event. This was the first declaration I have attended and represented my first opportunity to participate in cultural festivities in Senegal.

 Music seemed to fill the entire city. Caitlin, Rose and I had spent the day helping villages to prepare for the grand event. As a small reward for the day’s work, I wanted to dance.  This was the moment I had been anticipating from the beginning.
 We arrived at the town square and saw many children already dancing. Without giving it a second thought we joined them and suddenly, we were surrounded with five children hanging from each of our arms. The kids had separated us into two groups and tried to teach us Senegalese dances.  It must have been a rather comical sight.
After dancing, I was exhausted. A young boy took my hand and made me take a seat, telling me that I was too red in the face and it was really important for me to rest a little. I laughed and took his wise advice. Soon, before I really had a chance to catch my breath, the other children began asking me to dance again. Not having the will to decline, I rose to join them.           

When I tried to leave the children asked me where I was going. I told them I was thirsty and needed something to drink. The young boy who had noticed my flushed face offered me water at his house. I accepted it and together, all the children and me, marched down the street toward his house. I was introduced to his uncle who was delighted to share a conversation. We talked about our families, my arrival in Senegal and my work in Podor. When he learned that I worked with Tostan and was attending the declaration, he happily shared some of his thoughts. He told me that before Tostan, the community did not understand the consequences of FGC, but now they wanted to give their daughters a life free from this practice. FGC is one of many topics about which Tostan helps to raise awareness in rural communities and I was encouraged to hear just how far the effects of Tostan’s holistic education program, the Community Empowerment Program (CEP), actually are. Rejoining the children who were waiting for me, we walked back towards the celebration, which would usher in a new era for women and girls of the community: one in which harmful traditional practices had been abandoned. While dancing, I looked at the faces of this new generation. Those smiles will stay with me forever.

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