Senegal, Dakar: Religious leaders participate in UNFPA Regional Consultation

Shaykh Mahy Cisse. Photo: UNFPA WCARO

Chefs religieux présents à la conférence des leaders confessionnels sur le dividende démographique #Demodivid #UNFPA
— alexandre lette (@lettegubert) October 26, 2015

With one quarter of the world population aged between 10 to 24, aspirations and achievements of these young people is likely to shape our future. Fertility rates in many parts of the world are falling, and with an increasing number of young people, this phenomenon is known as the Demographic dividend.

Defined by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) it means “the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older)”.

The economic boost benefits of the demographic dividend could play a crucial part in the development prospect of many African countries, most particularly in West Africa. Also the new global development Agenda emphasizes the Demographic Dividend as a key to achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

On the 26th and 27th of October 2015, the UNFPA is organising a Regional Consultation of religious leaders on demographics dividend. The event is taking place at the Hotel King Fahd Palace, Dakar, Senegal. This public consultation intends to invite various traditional and religious leaders to discuss on the best ways to positively affect societies, invest and empower the youth and finally to reap the economic benefits of the demographic dividend.

Part of the fight for Gender Equality, but also as a mean to boost the likeliness to reap this demographic dividend, the campaign for women education and girls to attend schools is of utmost importance. Education is an important asset for the women in order to empower them, to ensure their positive participation in economic development and even to take care of their families.

The regional consultation represent therefore a welcome opportunity for our youth to come participate and put forward new initiatives. Among the questions which were asked to the various religious leaders, the following stood out:

Which answer can we provide to our sexually active youth?

Among the attendance of religious leaders, the respected Shaykh Muhammed Mahy Cisse from Medina Baye, Kaolack, Senegal made an insightful speech. Here are a few quotes:

The religion came about to get humanity out of darkness.
Islam is against marrying girls too young.
We treat and educate boys and girl the exact same way.
The girl is like the boy, and we must consider them equal.

The importance of religious leaders to take such a stance is very important in today’s world, even more so as religious extremism is spreading fast around the globe. A phenomenon which must be stopped. On the importance of the involvement of the Shuyukh and Imams, the Prime Minister of Senegal, Mohammed Dionne commented:

It is the responsibility of governments to provide the youth a better future.
Religious leaders are the messengers of wisdom and their presence is a guarantee of support.

Shaykh Muhammed Mahy Cisse is currently involved in a wide range of humanitarian and development projects. These include education, health but also poverty relief. The issue of gender equality is one to which he is particularly keen to work on. The European branch of his international organisation Alfityanu is running various project to help women and children in need in the region of Kaolack.

It is a reality for the issue of sexual relations to often be lacking answers from the religious community. Through the organisation of such forum, the UNFPA hope to be able to crack the taboos. Indeed, having the backing of local religious leaders, who are often the backbones of local cultures and societies, could prove a very effective way to embark our youth into the path of social and economic development success.

“Les chefs religieux sont les messagers de la sagesse et leur présence est un gage de soutien” le PM #Demodivid
— alexandre lette (@lettegubert) October 26, 2015

Originally published at on October 26, 2015.