back to top

These Senegalese Women Are Telling Their Heartbreaking Stories Of Sexual Abuse Through Emotive Artwork

French-Senegalese artist Delphine Diallo worked with five survivors of sexual abuse at a safe house in Senegal to produce the moving artworks.

Posted on

Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Diallo said she chose the idea of combining photography with collage because she hoped the women would find the process "healing."

"Their courage really inspired me. That after what they had been through they had the courage to keep going and try to make a better life for themselves really affected me," Diallo said.

"The process of creating the collages helped the women to express themselves and heal themselves by sharing their stories through their artwork."

Here is Penda, 21, who lives at the shelter after becoming pregnant as a result of sexual abuse.

Delphine Diallo

Penda moved to the safe house after becoming pregnant by a taxi driver who drove her to a deserted area and raped her. She was too ashamed to tell her family.

She, like all the women featured in the project, told her story to Save the Children.

"I don’t really make friends easily or quickly, but the girls here help me to forget about my problems," she told the charity.

"Two days ago I called my mother and told her the truth of what had happened to me. She was very upset and angry that I hadn’t told her what had happened before. She said, 'I am your mother, you should tell me everything'. She was so angry, she asked me not to call her again which hurt me a lot."


Fatou, 25, also lives at the safe house after being sexually abused and becoming pregnant.

Delphine Diallo

Fatou was living on the streets before police found her and referred her to La Maison Rose. She had become pregnant after being raped by a man she didn't know and was too ashamed to return home to her family.

"I am at peace with myself here at La Maison Rose and I get proper food every day – those are the best things about being here," Fatou said. "I do not have the stresses I had before I arrived. I sleep well and I’ve also made friends. Every day there are activities to take part in – my favorites are drawing and storytelling with group discussion.

"I am worried about giving birth and whether my father will accept me. He hasn’t visited me since I got here or got in touch with me. I would like to stay at La Maison Rose until my new baby is strong enough and then we will leave and rebuild my life."

Coumba, 26, moved to La Maison Rose after being abandoned by her family and the father of her child.

Delphine Diallo

Coumba moved to the safe house a year ago while pregnant with her second child. She had been living on the streets after she was abandoned by her family for not being a "blood" relative following the death of her adoptive mother. She has another son, who lives in a care home.

"The day I told my boyfriend I was pregnant with his child was the last day I ever heard from him or saw him again," Coumba said. "He disappeared, and stole a large amount of money from me at the same time. He took nearly all my life savings.

"I had to sleep on the streets while I was pregnant before I came to La Maison Rose. I was so scared. Only God knows how I got here and what I’d be doing if I wasn’t here.

"My boy, Abdul, is now 1 year old, and lives here with me at La Maison Rose. My dream in future is to be able to live with both my babies."

Marième, 15, lives at the safe house with her 2-year-old son, Mohamed.

Delphine Diallo

Marieme’s mother is severely mentally ill, and Marieme has spent many years of her life living on the streets, where she was abused physically and sexually. She became pregnant with Mohamed as a result of rape. Before moving to La Maison Rose, Marieme lived with an aunt who beat her and a grandfather who tried to marry her off to a much older man.

"I came here because I was raped and became pregnant was I was very young," Marieme said. "I had no one where else to go but they took me in and saved me. I am happy to sit and tell you my story today without crying.

"I gave birth to my son Mohamed in September 2014. I was 13 years old. I had to go to the hospital for a caesarean because they said my body was too small to have the baby the normal way. After all I have been through, I feel like know which path I need to steer my son Mohamed on to have a good life.

"I am wealthy because I have the love of my child. My mother is living in my neighbourhood but she is unwell so doesn’t even remember my name. I haven’t seen her in a long time. I do not cry after everything I have been through because I have faith and trust. All the things that have happened to me have made me stronger."

Anta, 25, lives with her daughter Sokhna, 4, at La Maison Rose. She is pregnant with her third child.

Delphine Diallo

Anta was raised by her grandparents in the south of Senegal after her mother died. She decided to find her father and travelled to Dakar in 2007. Anta found her father and moved in with him but his new wife was physically and verbally abusive. Her stepmother spread lies about her and eventually Anta's boyfriend, the father of her third child, left her and she was kicked out of her home.

"I have had a very tough life," Anta said. "At one point I thought about ending my life, but I immediately thought about my children and I could not put them through the suffering I have experienced. Who would be there for them?

"I am learning a lot here. In the future I want to keep the values they have taught me so that I can inspire other girls. I want the staff here to be proud of me. Allah will guide my children."

Senegal ranks in the bottom third of Save the Children's Girls' Opportunity Index, which rates the hardest countries to be a girl according to levels of child marriage, schooling, teen pregnancy, maternal deaths, and number of female MPs.

A third of all girls are married before the age of 18 in Senegal, a quarter of girls and women aged 15–49 have undergone female genital mutilation, and sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls continues to be a major problem across the country, according to the UN.

Diallo told BuzzFeed News she hoped her artworks would bring awareness to the major issues facing women and girls in Senegal.

"The collages are beautiful and colorful and attractive and I hope they will help people to see what is happening here," she said.

Save the Children hopes to eventually exhibit and sell the artworks to raise funds.

All of the women's and children's names have been changed to protect their identities.

Alicia Melville-Smith is a homepage editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alicia Melville-Smith at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.