The field visit of Aliou Cissé, coach of the Senegalese football team, has been marked by a series of meetings with local champions
TAMBACOUNDA/KOLDA (Senegal), February 10th, 2023 -There are no great champions or small champions. A champion is a champion. Aliou Cissé's tour with UNICEF in southern Senegal was highlighted by a series of extraordinary encounters.
A champion may also not be a person. It can be a whole community, a whole village. And the village of Copé Maondé, in the commune of Pakour, in the Kolda region, is on the list.
Why? The village has acquired the status "End to Open Defecation". And how? Thanks to the will, commitment, and collective actions of the entire population of the village, through the "Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS)" approach.
What's that? It is an integrated approach that involves the community to analyze its own hygiene and sanitation situation, defecation practices and their consequences, thus prompting collective action to achieve and maintain an End of Open Defecation (ALDF) status through the construction of latrines by the community itself without external subsidies.
And since 2021, the implementation of this approach has been expanded to a package of services in nutrition, maternal and child health, immunization, menstrual hygiene, and civil registration and is supported by UNICEF in the regions of Kolda, Sédhiou, Tambacounda and Kaffrine.
"It was just a matter of will and commitment. Collectively, we joined forces to clean up our village, make it pleasant to live in and built our own latrines. And now we are seeing the results. There are fewer sick children, fewer health problems and we have regained our dignity," said Ousseynou Sambou, 34 years old, a resident of the village of Copé Maondé and a father of four children.
The village of Copé Maondé had the honor of welcoming Aliou Cissé, because of this status. But it is not the only village. In 2022 alone, with the support of UNICEF, 738 villages have abandoned open defecation and implemented this approach, impacting more than 336,000 people. Senegal is now one of the few countries in Africa that has made substantial progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on safe drinking water and sanitation for all (SDG6). Since the implementation of the CLTS approach, more than 1.8 million people in 4,300 villages have abandoned open defecation in Senegal.
With few resources, you have managed to do great things. Everything is in you. What I have seen here is very motivating. I will talk about this village wherever I go
The trip was also marked by other encounters. Like the one at the youth center, called Teen Council Center (CCA) of the city of Kolda.
Aliou Cissé was welcomed by 19-year-old Adama Diallo, and 25-year-old Awa Diassy. The first is the departmental coordinator of the Girls’ Club of Kolda, recently nominated as a UNICEF Youth Advocate on the Rights of the Child. Adama had also proudly represented Senegalese youth at the Transforming Education Summit, held in New York last September. The second is the President of the Youth Parliament of the region, and an active animator of the center.
Both lead a vast network of young girls in the region, clubs bringing together young girls, aged 12 to 24, from different neighborhoods and villages, who have made it their mission to fight against harmful practice, such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, or gender-based violence.
They carry out mobilization and awareness-raising actions on several fronts: through educational talks, home visits, dialogue sessions between parents and adolescents, and mass communication campaigns, such as caravans and radio broadcasts. They also conduct trainings to enable girls to develop their self-esteem, leadership, communication, and innovation skills.
"Since the series of actions we have carried out, there has been a real change in behavior and mentality among both parents and teenagers in the region" said Awa Diassy with pride.
"We have conducted more than 21,000 home visits, conducted 57 social mobilization activities and distributed more than 9,000 sanitary kits for adolescent girls. Besides, more than 150 girls have benefited from “Salmaitou”, a UNICEF program that aims to introduce young girls to digital technology and innovation" she continued.
The champions of Medina Yoro Foulah
Arrived in the department of Medina Yoro Foulah, Aliou Cissé met 13-year-old Fatoumata Mané, mayor of the Municipal Council of Children of Medina Yoro Foulah. She had the honor of representing the children of Senegal at the last Forum on Immunization and Polio Eradication in Africa, held in Dakar last December, in the presence of the President of the Republic.
"In my capacity as mayor of the municipal council of children of the city, I declare you "honorary citizen of Medina Yoro Foulah". I ask you to be our ambassador next to all sport players in Senegal, in Africa and in the world so that they commit to promoting the rights of every child," she said in her speech, in front of all the personalities of the city.
The strength and passion you have shown have led to change. You are all champions. Continue to be role models, we will be by your side
The dialogue organized in Medina Yoro Foulah provided an opportunity to review the situation of children in the department, highlight the actions supported by UNICEF and launch an appeal on the remaining challenges in the areas of health, education, protection, and participation of children.