Fatoumata uses art to draw attention to violence against women

“Here is one of the paintings I made last year. This work shows the injustice girls face at home.”

Fatoumata (19) is an aspiring artist and girl’s rights activist in Dakar, Senegal. She uses her paintings to speak for girls. In it, she shares the challenges girls and women face, including rape, domestic violence, menstruation, teenage pregnancy and other political issues. Fatoumata hopes to create change and inspire other girls to take action.

Fatoumata and her painting – Photo: ©Plan International/Julien Flosse

Violence against girls and women

“The violence that girls experience at home is not normal,” says Fatoumata, and it stands in the way of girls’ right to education. “Education is not just for boys, and girls should also be able to learn without problems.”

The violence that girls experience at home is not normal

Violence against girls and women is a major problem in Senegal. A Senegalese study found that 27 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence since they were 15. In most cases, the violence was committed by a spouse or partner. The study also revealed that violence against girls is one of the most common, but least discussed, human rights violations in the country. 68 percent of girls who were victims of violence never talked about it or sought help.

Read also: Child mayor Yordana stands up for girls’ rights

The girls do the housework

Harmful stereotypes about women are also common, Fatoumata explains based on her painting: “You see a girl doing housework before they go to school, while the boy wakes up early in the morning, takes his bag and can immediately leave. The girl has to do the housework before she goes to school.”

“At school, the girl can’t concentrate well, she can’t even open her notebook. She didn’t eat breakfast until she went to school and her clothes got dirty. Sometimes she still smells of the dishes she made that morning, of the sauce still in the pot.”

Art and music

Fatoumata is part of Plan International’s Sisters Create program in the city of Dakar. Sisters Create empowers girls from poorer neighborhoods to create art and music to create change in their communities. There are painting lessons every Wednesday and Saturday evening, says Fatoumata. “In this classroom we make our paintings and discuss our ideas.”

Fatoumata’s idea to raise awareness of female leadership, violence against women and equal rights for girls resulted in her being selected for the Sister Create program. Especially because in her artwork she focuses on the rights of girls and children.

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“We need to take girls seriously”

“The challenges girls face inspire me. With my paintings I can show what girls have to do with. There are few female painters, and that is exactly why I chose to paint. To be able to express myself and speak up for girls and women.”

At school, the girl cannot concentrate well because she is already tired of doing the housework. She doesn’t even open her notebook

She continues: “I want girls to be taken seriously. That people no longer underestimate them and that we stop talking about jobs that girls should or shouldn’t be able to do. Girls can just as well become electricians or construction workers.”

Girls must also have an influence on politics, she says. “Because girls have good ideas that can help move politics forward. Girls must be listened to and have space for their plans.”

“So I would like to ask everyone to help girls and train them so they can become strong leaders and stand up for themselves.”

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