Because the theme of EuroNet’s colloquium was “bridges,” asking how we can work most effectively in Europe and Africa to address FGM, it seemed only natural to join Khady, president, and Els, secretary, and, over foaming Cappuccinos at the Espresso House, talk about their project La Palabre, a model of cooperation as the EuroNet envisions it. The last page of text in Blood Stains describes La Palabre in Thiès, Senegal, Khady’s shelter for girls fleeing FGM, forced and early marriages, or violence in general, as she herself experienced in Blood Stains.
Khady’s motivation is clear, but why was Els moved to get involved? “When Khady took me to visit the Koita family for the first time — and both her parents were still alive–, what really struck me, you had these young Talibé boys queuing at the gate of the compound, and her mom – even though they have a large, not so wealthy family – every morning she offered some bread, sugar or rice to these kids. Children, when you see them, you think they should be happy and smiling, but these boys were not; instead they would simply stand there looking so serious in their shabby clothes, gazing with their old men’s faces and large sad eyes, and seeing Khady’s mom give them what little she could inspired me to want to do something myself. That’s why we call the Centre Mame Diarra Diallo, after Khady’s mom.”
Khady, smiling at the mention of her late mother’s name, tells us a bit more about the project, its aims, and how you can help.
“We want to shelter girls running away from all sorts of violence and offer capacity-building courses to equip them when they leave to make their way in the world. We’ve done some successful fund-raising. The Madrid development corporation (Communidad de Madrid) has helped out, as have several small Belgian cities, the city of Rome and NGOs. And even a Dutch football team in Scheemda believed in us enough to give us team t-shirts and running shoes! But to open our doors sooner, we hope you’ll consider a small individual contribution. With your generosity we can make the finished building operational, for instance, by buying tables, chairs, and equipment for a medical unit – funds for all of the interior, in fact. So please join our growing list of donors, and you’ll be helping to safeguard the health and lives of many deserving kids. Put La Palabre into Facebook, like us, and make a contribution! … Welcome to Thies!”