News | Published at: March 27 2024

Aminata* is 18 years old. Originally from Sédhiou, Senegal, she is fighting for the emancipation of women and the eradication of gender-based violence (GBV) in her country To help her, she can count on the support of the Youth Network for the Promotion of the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage (RJPA-MGF/ME), a partner of VCP-CECI in Senegal (see box below).

Aminata first encountered the network when she was a teenager. While a member of the Adolescent Counseling Center in her village, she joined an Economic Interest Group (EIG) created with the support of RJPA-MGF/ME to develop a motorcycle transport service in her village. The 15 young women members of this GIE then divided the tasks among themselves: developing a commercial strategy, managing accounting, marketing, and administration, etc. However, they faced two major obstacles: intimidated by this traditionally male task, the young women were reluctant to ride the motorcycles, and they were not taken seriously by their community, which did not use their service. Aminata then became the first driver of the EIG and engaged in advocacy efforts in her village and surroundings to convince the public of the credibility of their business and raise awareness about the legitimacy of women in this sphere of activity. With the support of RJPA-MGF/ME, Aminata organized meetings, discussions, and numerous exchanges, both within the community and within her EIG.

Gradually, things began to change. In just one year, she noticed a significant improvement: the residents now took them more seriously, and several female drivers joined her. With the EIG now profitable, they were able to acquire a second motorcycle and hire and train other young women to continue its growth. The profits of the group are distributed transparently and in consultation with the individual needs of its members.

"With the EIG, we can now meet the personal, educational, hygiene, and medical needs of our members and be self-sufficient," Aminata.

In parallel with these income-generating activities, Aminata's EIG regularly organizes events and awareness sessions on GBV, including female genital mutilation and child marriage. Trained by RJPA-MGF/ME on these subjects, Aminata and her colleagues are committed to amplifying the voices of their peers and contributing at their level to combating violence. The young women interviewed unanimously testify to a change in mentality in their village since the beginning of these awareness activities.

"This story reflects both local and global change. The support of RJPA-MGF/ME and VCP-CECI, along with the leadership, perseverance, and resilience of these young women, have led to real improvements in stability and living conditions. On a broader level, without necessarily realizing it, these young women advocate every day for women's right to access traditionally male jobs, education, and a life free from GBV. The rapid evolution of mentalities in the village demonstrates the strength, determination, and influence of these change agents," Éloïse Roy-Gamache, VCP-CECI Volunteer with RJPA-MGF/ME.

Based in Dakar, RJPA-MGF/ME works for the empowerment of women across the country. In Sédhiou, it facilitates the creation of Economic Interest Groups (EIG) by young women in vulnerable situations. These EIGs enable them to engage in various trades such as commerce, transportation, catering, screen printing, agriculture, or livestock farming.

The network also raises awareness in communities about the rights of women and girls and provides women with spaces to express themselves, dialogue, and engage in the fight against gender-based violence (GBV). VCP-CECI supports this network by providing assistance from volunteers, particularly in project management.

*The name has been changed to preserve anonymity.
This testimonial comes from the activities of CECI's Volunteer Cooperation Program funded by the Government of Canada.