In the late morning, as soon as the last of the dew evaporated, guests filled ready-made benches and neighbors hoovered to see the "baby shower" gifts. The more intricate gifts sent by distant family or village groups are gift large bowls filled with rice and basic ingredients, sheets of patterned fabric, and baby care products. Village style gift baskets. The women also open the floor for monetary donations by holding a collection sheet in front of the hut entrance. The outspoken women tend to find their place guilting freeloaders into donations and then prodding them to dance with a melodic "Thank You!" song. I can never slip through before my name is put into the song for a quick shag.
The action really starts when the Griot announces the baby's name, shouting it in every cardinal direction. Sometimes the parents have separate (special) names that only they use for the child. They proceed by shaving the baby's head, careful not to loose any of the hair that could be used to curse the baby.
After giving the name, the festivity rolls on with treats and the first meal. The men slaughter a sheep or goat and the feast continues through the day. There is always a debate over the best way to divy up the meat to insure that all households receive a share. I finally was not delivered the prized organs.
This particular naming ceremony was exciting since it was put on by my immediate family. My sister was in full bloom for what seemed like months, as Im sure she would agree, and I just knew she was going to give birth every time I went into town. Finally I have been present. During the last two years in Sare Meta, all three ladies of my house have had a baby and our village population has increased by about 25, a significant number for only 350 inhabitants.
Planned parenting education has shown successful as women are speaking up and taking action to control pregnancy (and young marriage) within safe measures. The latest WHO survey in 2005 indicated that the percent of married women using modern contraceptives increased to 10% with trends projected to continue increasing. The average Senegalese woman has approximately 5 surviving children throughout her reproductive life. The high, yet ideal number reflects the demand for physical labor on family crops, insurance of reverse caretaking in old age, and high perinatal mortality rate, which accounts for stillbirths and neonatal mortalities. Again in the 2005 survey, WHO reports an average perinatal mortality rate of 45 per 1000 pregnancies with rates twice as high in rural areas. Comparatively, while there is a 1 in 3,600 chance a woman will die from maternal causes in the developed world, sub-Saharan women face a ghastly 1 in 31 chance of dying from such causes. (Data from PRB’s 2011 World’s Women and Girls Data Sheet)
With progress both visible and reported in family planning, current government and NGO projects continue to press the women's health agenda by addressing maternal malnutrition, low birth weight, and continued developmental requirements. “Public health is like sex. Thinking about it and talking about it is not the same as doing it.” -Dr. Daniel Singer, Director for Global Health Research and International Activities at National Institutes of Health