Reports from our volunteers through the EVS volunteer experience living in distant countries (SVE Project – Voices From Around the World III), not only for miles, but also for culture and traditions. Often the match close and prolonged contact with different cultures is a source of great fascination, sometimes leaves upset and stimulates deep reflection on your company and on that host. The convergence / divergence in the protagonists creates a point of view is not sweetened and disillusioned, setting in motion a series of questions that sometimes they can trace the biographical and professional future paths of people involved in such projects.

I live in a city called Sédhiou, in the south of Senegal , Casamance. Here the main ethnic group is the Mandingo one, the most tied to its traditions and, I have to say it, the most chauvinist of Senegal. Women always work in here: in the ricefields, in the fields, in the house, everywhere. I never see them sitting under  the mango trees, making tea and watching people passing by. If a man is 3 meters far from his glass, he does not stand up himself, but he asks his sister, who he is teaching a card game to, to go and take him the glass; and she does it without saying any word.

In this place it happens to me to hear  a 20-years-old boy say that men and women are not equal, that if he hits his sister because of her close-fitting clothes  it does not mean  doing violence to her but it means “correcting” her, I think he meant  “forming” me. I met  this boy  in a training session held by Amnesty International whose topic was violence against women fighting. The most bizarre thing is that his speech hardly caused  the slightest reactions from the training session organizers. I can not even imagine what this boy really thinks.

Sometimes girls look at me with distrust, I can feel their sight staring at me and I do not understand why, I do not know if I have to feel  at fault or if I have to ask them what is wrong;  in any case they hardly speak to me.

If they have to give me an example of men seduction or attention grabbing, the sole technique they know is about close-fitting clothes and sexually provocative behavior. And they are educated girls who are speaking and thinking that intelligence does not help that much with men.

Finally I find out that in this area of Senegal  95% of women suffered excision,  a practice that mutilate the possibility to feel sexual pleasure forever, excluding  the other risks.

This  topic usually is not discussed , especially with the Toubabs (white people).

Thus I think about the beauty of these women and about their sweet smiles, about  their  heavy and loud laughs,  their strait and proud backs and I ask myself is it possible to live a life on such  conditions and to keep smiling, without rebelling to it. The more secrets about their lives I can steal , the less I am able to look at them  the same way as before.

I walk along the main street of Sédhiou with these thoughts in my  mind, on a Friday afternoon at 2 p. m., the most important religious moment of the week.

I am deep in my thoughts as I approach the Mosque, I look around and I realize that it is crowded with people who are praying, and so is every angle of the street all around.

The silence surrounding me is broken only by the prayer, mystic chorus of voices.

Walking in that magic space I feel  myself enshrouded by great respect  for this community,  gathering  entirely to pray in honour of the death of three women in a car accident the day before.

Two aspects of the same place, so different in their inner essence and in what they communicate to me.

Understanding all this is difficult, I do not manage to do it sometimes.

Letizia Marongiu