Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second largest city, is one of the regions where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is most widely practised, with a prevalence of 82% (28tooMany, 2015). Despite many people recognising that FGM offers no health advantages, the practice continues to remain deeply rooted within the culture. For deaf children, social integration within their communities proves even more challenging, with very few community members able to communicate in sign language. For these children, the risk of undergoing FGM is often higher due to an inability to express themselves clearly or fully comprehend what is happening around them.
In this fascinating interview, we spoke with Madame Zongo Francoise and Monsieur Yoro Julien at L’institut des Jeunes Sourds de Faso (The Institute of Young Deaf Children) to hear how TackleAfrica’s interactive football sessions are proving an invaluable tool in helping young deaf students and their families understand the harm that FGM does.
TackleAfrica: Why did you choose to work with deaf children?
Madame Zongo: I strongly believe deaf children have as much right to an education as every other normal child and it is important that others make sacrifices to help them and to ensure they gain the necessary information to lead a healthy life.
What are the challenges of using a football programme like TackleAfrica’s with young deaf children?
Madame Zongo and Monsieur Julien: You have to be really expressive and communicative when coaching on the pitch with the children, acting out or miming little scenes of the event yourself to attract their attention and to illustrate the point. Since deaf children learn in a much more visual way, we often like to write things down on the ground or draw them during our sessions. For example, we may group the children in a classroom and clarify the rules on the board before heading out to the pitch. TackleAfrica’s FGM brochures have proved an especially useful resource with our deaf students, directly connecting the FGM messages to images. Where relevant on a TackleAfrica session in the field, we take the brochure with us to reference during the sessions offering further clarity on the FGM Message.
Our true challenge is to try and be at the same level as children with full hearing and to ensure that we can compete to a high standard amongst the others. If we take part in a tournament and our children are not able to lead the sessions or play the games as they should be then it is embarrassing and will send out the wrong message in front of the public and the other children. We are always pushing to try to do as well as the other schools if not even better!
When you were first approached about using TackleAfrica’s football sessions to teach young deaf children about FGM, did you understand how it could work?
Monsieur Julien: No not at all! When I first heard about TackleAfrica combining football to teach children about FGM, I could not imagine how there was any link possible and I was very intrigued to find out more about it. After following the training course and seeing for myself the games in practice, I loved the idea. I particularly like the clear ‘5 step sequence’ and methodology that TackleAfrica adopt in every session. This helps our deaf students to learn, anticipate and remember the messages within each session.
What’s the most satisfying thing about the TackleAfrica sessions?
Madame Zongo: What I like is being able to see, through these sessions, the children are starting to understand that FGM is a harmful practice. It is satisfying hearing them discuss the effects FGM can have on a girl’s physical and mental health and I really hope they share this information with their family members when at home.
Monsieur Julien: Often when I drop by the Institute on the weekend, I find the children there on the pitch setting up the sessions themselves. They measure out the area using the cones and distribute the bibs with certain children playing the role of the coach. It is a great feeling knowing that they have enjoyed the sessions and really taken something from them.
I hope that Tackle Africa will continue to reach more deaf schools within the region of Bobo Dioulasso so that others in similar situations are able to access the same in-depth level of information on FGM as our students.
TackleAfrica: Thank you so much for your time and your work adapting our football programme to the needs of your students. We hope to learn from your implementation so that we may work with other schools for deaf children across all our regions.
To get involved in our work, visit www.tackleafrica.org/get-involved and see what you can do!