The Stigma of Angels – Infertility In West Africa

The Stigma of Angels


British filmmaker Jane Labous documented the taboos faced by Senegalese women when it comes to infertility. 

Infertility affects thousands of women across Senegal, yet the subject is deeply taboo. In this beautiful short documentary, Jane Labous meets those fighting societal pressures in this West African country, where the infertile are said to be affected by les anges (‘bad spirits’) and where a new generation of career women is leaving it later to have children.

The Kanyaleng Women’s Groups of The Gambia

The Kanyaleng are women who all know the agony of infertility or child mortality. Kanyaleng are excellent singers, dancers and drummers and are known for their bold acting and ridicule.

In the future we hope to work very closely with the Kanyaleng in our educational outreach programs that will cover infertility and related topics such as FMG, STD’s and child marriage.

Click here to read more on The Kanyaleng

A warm welcome to our Belgium visitors

This week we had the honor of meeting with Mr Gady Zohori – CEO of Multi-G Pharmaceutical Products, Prof Willem Ombelet – Director of The Walking Egg Project and Mr Peter de Roo – Consultant The Embassy of The Gambia in Brussels at Africmed Clinic.

The Walking Egg Foundation, a charity sprang from the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology in Belgium has developed a Simplified Culture System (SCS) which allows IVF to be carried out without the need of a full laboratory, therefore massively reducing the cost and making it a real possibility in African settings.

Read more on TWE Low Cost IVF

She Decides




SheDecides is a global movement to promote, provide, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of every girl and woman. Every girl and every woman has the right to do what she chooses with her body; she has the right to health.

A world where SheDecides means that every girl and every woman can safely exercise her right to decide for herself what she does with her body, who she shares her body with and whether she wants to have children. She must have access to education and information about her body and her options, modern contraception and safe abortion.

Follow the link to She Decides

International Infertility Awareness Week 2018 In The Gambia, West Africa

We mark International Infertility Awareness Week 2018 with a short film celebrating the role that the Kanyaleng play in supporting childless women and breaking taboos about infertility in The Gambia, West Africa.

The Kanyaleng are women who all have in the past, or still are struggling with infertility or child mortality. Kanyaleng are excellent  singers, dancers and drummers. They often perform at public gatherings and celebrations such as weddings and naming ceremonies and are known for their bold acting and ridicule.

Kanyaleng membership is a useful coping strategy. The solidarity of women of the same village or community, united by their struggles to meet standard of womanhood as mothers, and the pressure society puts on them, create strong support networks. Furthermore membership helps them improve their long term status, both social and economic.

The Kanyaleng, outspoken, articulate and experienced performers, proved very successful in delivering the message that was otherwise sometimes difficult to understand for people in the rural area’s of
the Gambia.

This role as ‘Traditional Communicators provided the Kanyaleng not only with some extra income, but it also helped their status as productive members of society. In the future we hope to involve Kanyaleng kafoo in our educational outreach programs on the subject of infertility awareness.

Fllow the link for more information on International Infertility Awareness Week

Bleeding Flower – A film by Bakary Sonko on FGM

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. It is estimated worldwide 200 million women have undergone FMG, mostly in Africa. In the Gambia an estimated 76.3% of girls and women have undergone FMG. Though the practice has been banned in the Gambia since 2015, FGM is sadly still ongoing.

An impressive film on FMG by Bakary Sonko. A young couple is being harassed by the husband’s mother to have their daughter circumcised. The grandma is finally able to craft a plan to get the granddaughter circumcised without her son and daughter in-law’s knowledge.

FGM In The Gambia, West Africa

Gambian filmmaker Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu has produced  this unique documentary film with taboo-breaking sexuality testimonies on Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) in The Gambia, West Africa.

Musuya Kunto aims to advances the debates on obsolete or harmful practices on the one hand and relevant traditions on the other. It serves as an effective tool for sensitization drive on Violence against Children (VaC), Sexual Rights and Reproductive Wellbeing of both women and men, and gender based violence.

The geographical scopes and relevance of this documentary goes beyond The Gambia. They incorporate all the developing countries and Western societies were gender based violence or FGM are burning human rights and health care issues.

If you are interested in hosting community screenings, educational screenings, corporate screenings, festival screenings, policy briefings, master classes and related activities that would include our MUSUYA KUNKO documentary, feel free to get in touch with us.

Women’s Health & Africa’s Fertility Paradox

To the casual observer of the sexual and reproductive health debate, it would appear that the greatest concern for women in Africa is the right not to have children and from a socio economic development point of view this makes perfect sence. 

Africa’s ever growing population creates environmental and social challenges that effect food security and financial stability at every level of society. On a local level, large families tend to have hungry children and hungry children tend to get sick more often. Then the family suffers further as mothers spend household savings and time nursing sick children rather than working to earn the money that will feed and educate their families.

This problem becomes even more challenging at a national level where rapid population growth among the low-skilled and uneducated poor has resulted in millions of unskilled youth facing high unemployment who are now becoming sexually active. These are the two main factors that contribute to and perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty.

However, at the same time in those same overpopulated regions, about one in three couples are infertile showing that some people are having too many children and others none at all. Infertility is deemed a
low-priority issue in the context of scarce health care resources and infertility may be justified as a natural solution to achieving the ‘demographic dividend’ of accelerated economic growth from declining fertility and smaller dependent populations.

There are many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Africa to satisfy the increasing need and demand for sexual and reproductive health services for women. The key areas for investment by these NGOs have been the right to legal and safe abortion and the right to birth control ensuring that women can practice and enjoy sexual relationships without the risk of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies.

With the exception of the WHO, few organisations are prioritising or funding infertility efforts or initiatives that will address the problems faced by childless women.

Being childless in developing countries is much more difficult than being childless is the developed world where infertility treatments such as IVF are sometimes perceived as a luxury or lifestyle choice for those who must have it all. In the absence of social security systems, older people in Africa are economically dependent on their children and grandchildren for their daily needs and survival.

It is always the woman who will carry the blame for the couple’s inability to conceive and in addition to the personal grief and suffering, women in Africa who cannot have babies are often cast out from their marriages, families and communities and often drift into prostitution.

Dimbayaa is building on the advances being made in women’s health by delivering a program for infertility care, providing awareness and prevention programs, counseling, standardised diagnosis and cheaper, more affordable, low cost fertility treatments.

The Kanyaleng of Madina Salam

In many African countries, having children is of out most importance. Women who can’t get pregnant, miscarry of whose babies die carry a great burden. They face ridicule, humiliation and rejection from family members and villagers. Their husbands may divorce them, or ‘take’ a second wife. Barren women often suffer from stigma, social isolation, ostracism and even violence.

In the Gambia and Senegal these women unite in groups called the Kanyaleng. They are the village entertainers and perform at festive events as weddings and naming ceremonies. Kanyaleng are often excellent dancers and drummers and they have a talent to expose sensitive topics in a humorous way, including taboos.

Kanyaleng may poke fun at the expectations of women, the inability to meet standards of a large family, and the negative consequences this entails. In their bold song and dance performances which are full of laughter they tease and ridicule on men and play with conventional traditional gender roles. Kanyaleng membership is a useful coping strategy. The solidarity of women of the same village or community, united by their struggles to meet standard of womanhood as mothers, and the pressure society puts on them, create strong support networks. Furthermore membership helps them improve their long term status, both social and economic.

Bateh, a woman in her early forties and a member of the Diola Karoninka tribe, has been a Kanyaleng for many years. Bateh was called Hawa Demba before she joined the Kanyaleng. Women are often been given a new name when they become Kanyaleng. The new name is should distract evil spirits and stop them from following the women and thus break their negative influence on the women’s fertility. A Kanyaleng name may reffer to a company or organisation or a country. Examples are Africell (a local telecom company) and Taiwan.

Every Kanyaleng women has her own specific costume, jewelery and attributes she uses in the performance. They may carry dolls or decorated calabashes. They may be seen with a toy photo camera, or carrying a teddy bear or plastic doll on their backs. Some Kanyaleng wear man’s cloths.

When Hawa got married she gave birth to one child. After this she suffered from several miscarriages. She sought help from a Marabout, a spiritual healer. The Marabout gave her a juju and prayed for her, but he also advised her to find a group of women who could pray with her so she would conceive again.

Meanwhile, the local Kanyaleng group had already decided they would approach Hawa at an unexpected moment and perform a ritual for her. They surprised her one day at a wedding that she happened to attend. They teased her, she felt quite embarrassed by their bizarre remarks and touching, even hitting her on different part of her body. Then finally they took her into a house and made her sit down on the floor in the middle of the room. All eight Kayaleng women sat around her and sung and prayed for her, begging God to give her another baby. This is when she received the name Bateh, which means ‘to go cross’.

Kanyaleng initiation often involves throwing water and porridge on the new member. The underlying thought of this is that the porridge creates a barrier between them and any evil spirits that may interfere with her fertility.

Hawa’s mother in law Binta then took her on a journey. They traveled to Binta’s village Boune in Senegal. Here, far from her home village in the Gambia, Bateh would be safe from the evil spirits that had troubled her beore. Binta stayed with her in Boune, and Bateh’s husband visited on a regular basis. Binta crafted Bateh her Kanyaleng attributes; a calabash decorated with shells and a stick with cows hair. The Kanyaleng of Boune danced and prayed with Bateh. After some time Bateh got pregnant. She stayed in Boune throughout her pregnancy and also the first weeks after she had given birth.

Two years after she had left her home village in the Gambia, Bateh returned with in her arms her daughter Sainabou. Bateh is a member of the Kanyaleng group there. Kanyaleng membership is for life and also women who later become mothers will usually keep on performing with them. Children born within the group will have the groups special protection. Bateh later gave birth to five more children.

Several Kanyaleng groups have been asked how they feel about Western medicine. Their answer was unanimously positive. Traditional ways, though often helpful, may not always be able to solve the problem. Physical problems should be attended to by a doctor. In Taiwan’s words: ‘Kanyaleng is something like a belief and a luck, sometimes it will happen when you pray and if God wish there will be a child, but sometimes it will not happen’.

In the past, NGO and government led programs involved Kanyaleng in outreach projects, educating the people on subjects such as HIV prevention, maternal nutrition, family planning and water recourse management that ran nation-wide. The Kanyaleng, outspoken, articulate and experienced performers, proved very successful in delivering the message that was otherwise sometimes difficult to understand for people in the rural area’s of the Gambia. In the future we hope to involve Kanyaleng kafoo in our educational outreach programs on the subject