Welcome to Part 1 of our May 2024 Inspirational Interview with Fatou Warkha Sambe, journalist and founder of Warkha TV in Senegal.

Fatou Warkha Sambe, a passionate Senegalese feminist journalist, is dedicated to using her profession as a powerful tool in the fight against inequality and gender-based violence in Senegal. She has been elected municipal councillor in the commune of Pikine Nord. In 2023 she won the Ouagadougou Partnership Women Leadership Accelerator (OWLA) programme and the third Francophone prize for gender equality 2023.

Part two of Fatou’s interview will be published on 6 May 2024.

All photos are courtest of Fatou Warkha Sambe.

This interview has been translated from French by Bernardo Rosa Rodrigues.

1. How and why did you join the movement to end violence against women (VAW)? 

From a very early age, even within my own family, I felt I should be treated the same as my brothers. I remember refusing to do the washing up on my way home from school because I felt it wasn’t fair that my brothers were watching TV at the same time. This commitment was also present within this community in Pikine, on the outskirts of Dakar. When I was still in Cm2 class (10-11 years old), I set up a grassroots community association to combat violence against children. After my baccalaureate (A-levels), I enrolled in the Philosophy department of the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, where I decided to stop my undergraduate studies to devote myself to defending women’s rights. 

I’m passionate about journalism and I needed to find the means to continue my activism while pursuing my passion. So, after my journalism training, I set up Warkha TV, an online TV channel. I realised that the content on TV channels about women wasn’t good enough–especially the silence around rape and violence against women–so I decided to use this platform as a community communication space to promote feminism and women’s rights. It was a risky gamble “if you want to have a decent income”, but it was the right thing to do in order to highlight abuses and give a voice to survivors of violence.

Today with the platform I am making a significant contribution to raising awareness, encouraging dialogue and promoting women’s rights through various initiatives.  As founder of Warkha TV, I use the power of the media to amplify women’s voices and experiences. Through a discussion programme that explores feminism with activists from Senegal and the diaspora, and through thought-provoking conversations and interviews, I facilitate constructive dialogue on feminist issues, challenging societal norms and promoting gender equality.


2. Your feminist advocacy work is spread across three different roles as a feminist activist in the Dafadoy Collective, a journalist focused on women’s human rights issues, and the founder of WarkhaTV. How have your experiences in each role informed and influenced your overall approach to the fight to end VAW?

These may seem to be different roles, but they come together to give our struggles greater impact. These different battlegrounds have made me realise just how systemic the problem is and why it’s important to use all the means at our disposal to tackle it. So I’m proposing an inclusive, intersectional approach so that no one is left behind.

As a founding member of the Dafadoy collective, I’ve done a lot of work on advocacy campaigns to obtain the new law criminalising rape in Senegal, and I’ve used WarkhaTV as a tool to broadcast our demands and reach as many people as possible in Senegal and beyond. 

During the year, we also launched the Senegal Feminist Network to pool our strengths and voices to better denounce this system.


3. Could you give us an overview of the Dafadoy Collective for Ending Violence Against Women and Children in Senegal. Could you tell us about the Dafadoy coalition and what it is doing to combat VAW in the Senegal?

The Dafadoy collective is a leading organisation dedicated to the fight against rape in Senegal. Through its advocacy and awareness-raising efforts, the collective plays a key role in raising awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence and in survivors’ fight for justice.

Together with other women’s associations, the Dafadoy collective has led the fight to criminalise rape. After several years of lobbying, the law was passed in December 2019. It was a great satisfaction for me, even if there are still many things to be done to ensure respect for women’s rights. I’m thinking of the family code, which empowers the father figure to the detriment of women, and medical abortion.


4. In your many years of working as a journalist, what have you found are the particular challenges that female journalists face when reporting about violence against women and girls?

There are many challenges: 

  • The actual presence in the media of committed women who work on issues of violence, because there are not many of them and few are those who specialise in this area;
  • Resource challenges, because the public in general prefers to see these issues treated as sensational news items with a high dose of sexism and rape culture;
  • Safety challenges, as we are often the victims of threats and insults via social networks.


4.You founded WarkhaTV to discuss women’s issues (including VAW) in Senegal and have amassed a sizeable audience on YouTube. However, unlike independent feminist media like yours, mainstream media across the world has been criticised for either ignoring or poorly reporting stories of violence against women (VAW) whether as an issue in general or in terms of particular cases. How do you think the media can improve the way they approach and report VAW?

There are a number of reasons why the media should incorporate feminist approaches into their news coverage:

  • To gain a better understanding of how patriarchy as a system of domination affects women’s lives
  • To understand that the normalisation of violence is a systemic problem, hence the importance of investing in deconstructing social and cultural perceptions in order to re-establish a fair and equitable system in which every woman can enjoy all her rights. 

Feminist awareness must be raised in the media so that VAW issues are given the space, the importance and the time they deserve.