On 8 May, 2018, I received a text message on my phone. It was from Mamady Kondjira. I opened it and read the following message: "Hello Miss, Mamady Kondjira has passed away. I tried calling you but unfortunately..."
I was in shock. Mamady, a proud and immensely honourable man, had decided years ago, as a man and as a father, to speak out against FGM. He saw it as a way to take on his responsibilities as the chief of his family.
He would simply say: "I'm the chief of this family, no one can cut my daughters without my consent". So his four daughters were always safe.
It takes courage to stand up against a secular and historical social norm. Especially for a man that came from a family of cutters. This desire to respect his daughters - and to value them as creatures of God, created in perfection – in a district that has one of the highest FGM prevalence rates in the country (Makacolibantang in the Tambacounda county) is exceptional.
From this moment, his main motivation has been to value uncut girls inside his community. Thanks to dialogue, debates and awareness campaigns, Mamady managed to convince his family to stop the practice. As a social communication expert, he dedicated his life to raise the value of women and girls inside the community, promoting female health. He fought against child marriage and advocated for pre-natal checkups.
Thanks to his work, he has been selected to participate in The Face of Defiance, a photographic project focusing on survivors of FGM and activists. He also promoted the project on the Senegalese national TV, appearing on the top morning show in December 2017.
A proud, dignified and courageous man has left us today. He used to say "education and communication are the most important things to help us abolish FGM". In honour of his memory, us activists have to continue his work "with sensibility and intelligence", as per his words.
May he rest in peace, and may his mission to value and protect girls be passed on by all of us.
Soukeyna Diallo, Senegal
(The Face of Defiance was created by activist Leyla Hussein and photographer Jason Ashwood.)