In the Senegalese city of Pikine, a group of women is coming together to help the victims of violence and rape to denounce their aggressors. Penda Ndiaye is one of these women leaders working to make their communities safer and more equal. We were able to meet with her.
Penda Ndiaye has been working at the heart of Senegalese civil society for a number of years. In 2016, Penda wanted to tackle problems related to inequality, which led her to take a training offered by Equitas, based on the action guide “Andandoo! For the Civic Participation of Youth and Women”. The goal of the Equitas action guide is to help foster the growth of grassroots programs based on the promotion and protection of human rights, dealing in particular with the empowerment of women and girls.
After completing the course, Penda, along with other community leaders, decided to take action on the issue of rape in Pikine, Senegal’s second largest city. They focused their efforts on El Hadj Paté, a rather distant, poor, and rough suburb where violence and rape were significant problems.
Together, Penda and her colleagues worked with a dynamic group of women and youth, guiding them through the processes outlined in Andandoo!
“We brought up the issue and it was [the women in the association] who did the bulk of the work because they had identified cases of rape and they told us about the challenges they faced… they said that if a rape took place, they didn’t know who to turn to or what to do.”
The training session leaders explained, among other things, the steps to take when reporting a rape. After the training, the association became more self-reliant on this matter. As Penda explains, “they are now gaining momentum.”
A Network of Solidarity and Vigilance
Penda maintains that the course offered by Equitas has been beneficial to her work as a leader in civil society. The program “allowed me to strengthen my abilities, improve my leadership skills, and work with people from all social strata.”
Penda also shared the knowledge she gained from the course with other people in her network, training them to be able to take action in the neighbourhood. In one case, a woman from Penda’s association learned that her neighbour suspected his roommate of spousal abuse. The roommate’s wife was a minor from Guinea who did not speak Wolof, the local language. The woman from the association went to the home of the couple to inquire. She then contacted the local police, who summoned the couple and resolved the problem, all while maintaining privacy.
According to Penda, “without the training we received from Equitas, we would not have been able to educate these women to take on this role in their neighbourhood.”
At the community level, Penda notes that people have begun to report rape cases as a result of the efforts of the association. Denunciations were made on local radio, to the police, and even to associations for human rights and the rights of women. “Now, the public understands the legal issues and women know that when they have problems, they can go to the police, who are not just there to repress, but also to listen to the public and protect them.” Penda has also realized that the public gets involved in campaigns for equality when they take place at the local level, notably as groups of watchdog committees who work together with judicial and administrative authorities.
Thanks to the tools provided by education programs on human rights, Penda contributes to the growth of an entire network of women leaders who promote respect and human rights, contributing to the creation of safer and more equal communities.
Story translated by Scott Fleming