Senegalese Actress Launches TV Series to Raise Awareness About Unsafe Migration (Story)

Photo: IOM

Khalima stars in a new television series in Senegal called ‘Loumey wakh wa cogne ba’, translated as, ’What will I say to the neighbours?’, broadcasted on one of country’s main channels.

The ten-episode series, set in a neighbourhood in Dakar features the story of Anta, Khalima’s character, who returns home after travelling to Europe.  The story is based on real-life testimonies of returnee migrants and brings to light the risks associated with unsafe migration routes.

"The idea was to make migrants the top story and have discussion about it. Migration is not forbidden. What I recommend to young people is to travel in a more organized fashion.

“They [young people] are taking the risk to cross the Mediterranean Sea and the desert to reach North African and European countries, thinking that they will succeed there. Yes, some have succeeded in their journey, but many others have died because they have left in terrible conditions," says Khalima.

From 2000 to 2017, more than 30,000 people died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, according to data from IOM. Young men under the age of 30 represented 92 per cent of migrants attempting to reach Europe from West and Central Africa (June 2020).

Khalima produced the television series after hearing the harrowing experiences of young people returning to Senegal. Khalima is an ambassador for the Migrants as Messengers project led by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The project supports activities led by migrant returnees in seven countries in West Africa, including Senegal, to raise awareness among communities about the risks of irregular migration and regular pathways. Khalima along with other ambassadors have also been involved in publicising public health messaging about COVID-19 to debunk harmful rumours.

The show aims to demystify irregular migration by presenting concretely the costs and risks that it entails. The character, Anta, explains the sacrifices that she and her family had to make for her to leave, the dangers she faced during her journey, the hardship she experienced in Europe and the stigma and difficulties that she faces being a returnee in Senegal.

The series  aired on Senegalese national television last year and is available online on IOM Senegal and Télé Story Sénégal YouTube channels. It  has been well received, with more than 800,000 views online. A second season is underway. Feedback from viewers has been positive about the realism of the plot and Khalima's acting.

"I found the series interesting because it matches with what is happening in Senegal. Here, when you return and come back empty handed, society looks down on you and people stigmatize you. Khalima plays her role well, that's exactly how it is" says Coumba Mboup, a fan of the show.

Photo: OIM

Several migrant returnees participated in the production of the show, including helping develop the script according to their experiences to ensure the storyline and characters are plausible.

Photo: OIM

“The theme of the series was important for me because it portrays the difficult return of a migrant. It was really interesting and it allowed me to strengthen my skills,” says Ndeye Fatou Sall, a migrant returnee and awareness raising volunteer.

To promote the show, Khalima appeared on the radio show Vibe Radio Senegal along with Ramatoulaye Diène, a journalist and awareness raising volunteer.  They discussed the Migrants as Messengers project, the risks associated to irregular migration and their experiences.

Photo: OIM

Migrants as Messenger was launched in 2017 by IOM and is implemented in seven West African countries: Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The project supports a network of more than 290 Volunteers to inform people about the dangers of irregular migration. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the volunteers have also organized public health campaigns to inform people and prevent the spread of the virus in their communities.