Addressing taboos around infertility issues in Senegal
Thousands of women in sub-Saharan Africa are affected by the pain and sadness of infertility, yet infertility is still widely perceived to be a uniquely ‘Western’ problem.
Angels is an independent multi-media documentary project set in Dakar, Senegal. The project, including film, essays, photography and audio, documents how West African women and doctors are determined to shatter taboos around the subject of infertility, offering women opportunities for treatment and support.
Unlike news stories viewing African issues through a clichéd lens of conflict and poverty, this story shows that it doesn’t matter where you live, or how much money you have, infertility can affect anyone, anywhere, from whatever walk of life.
Angels is a story of modern Africa, where women, often with successful careers, are putting off having children until later in life, and where traditional beliefs are increasingly colliding with contemporary life issues and medical advances.
Via Angels, we hope to enable Senegalese women to start a conversation about infertility, break the silence, and find solace in hearing other women’s stories.
Infertility brings great loneliness. In offering Senegalese women an opportunity to talk and share their stories with women around the world, we hope in turn to help them address their trauma, combat taboos, find opportunities for knowledge and treatment - and above all, know that they are not alone.
About the documentary
Angels is so-called because women who suffer a miscarriage in the UK, or lose their babies during pregnancy, sometimes call their lost babies, ‘angel babies’.
Meanwhile, in parts of Senegal, women suffering from infertility are said to be affected by 'les anges'. These women face social stigma in communities because they don't have children.
The Angels documentary project will include two short video documentaries, as well as essays and features, photography and audio work for print, web and broadcast media.
Angels is funded by a E19,000 grant from the European Journalism Centre, awarded in 2018 via its Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme.
The EJC says: “Awareness about gender equality is now more universal and familiar than ever before. Yet much of the media coverage of the fight for gender balance often focuses on the struggles and challenges women face, and not the opportunities arising from them.
“Against this backdrop, 12 projects were recently awarded in the last round of the Innovation in Development Reporting Grant.
"The projects will tell empowering and under-reported stories of how women are transforming their contribution to society around the globe.
"This might be by thriving at their jobs, fighting deep-rooted traditions or turning their disabilities into skills.”
Angels is an independent multi-media documentary project set in Dakar, Senegal. The project includes film, essays, photography and audio documenting how West African women and doctors are determined to shatter taboos around the subject of infertility, offering women opportunities for treatment and support.
You can listen to the BBC Radio 4 From Our Own Correspondent broadcast here. The essay also featured on the BBC World Service in this programme.
Geographical launched the Angels documentary film on 14th December 2018. You can find it here. A six page feature appeared in the January 2019 print magazine, available in all good newsagents, and is now on the Geographical website. You can read it here.
Les Anges, the French version of the documentary film, featured in Jeune Afrique in January 2019. Jeune Afrique is the leading French news magazine about Africa. Read the article and watch the film here.
The Angels film and other materials have been picked up by several UK secondary school teachers and university lecturers for use in relevant GCSE and MSc modules.
You Are Not Alone, a drama, will premier in 2019.