30 Jul 2018

Angels – addressing taboos around infertility in Senegal

Thousands of women in sub-Saharan Africa are affected by the pain and sadness of infertility, yet it is still perceived to be a uniquely ‘Western’ problem. Angels is an independent multi-media documentary project set in Dakar, Senegal, directed by writer, journalist and broadcaster, Jane Labous, documenting how West African women and doctors are determined to shatter taboos around the subject of infertility, offering women opportunities for treatment and support.

“Unlike news stories viewing African issues through a clichéd lens of conflict and poverty, this story shows that it doesn’t matter where you live, or how much money you have, infertility can affect anyone, anywhere,” says Jane.

Angels is a story of modern Africa, where modern women, often with successful careers, are putting off having children until later in life, and where traditional beliefs are increasingly colliding with contemporary life issues and medical advances led by pioneering women.”

 Angels is funded by a E19,000 grant from the European Journalism Centre, awarded in 2018 via its Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme.

“Via Angels, we hope to enable Senegalese women to start a conversation about infertility, break the silence, and find solace in hearing other women’s stories,” says Jane. “Infertility brings great loneliness. In offering Senegalese women an opportunity to talk and share their stories with women around the world, we hope in turn to help them address their trauma, combat taboos, find opportunities for knowledge and treatment, and above all, know that they are not alone.” 

The documentary is called Angels because UK women who suffer a miscarriage, or lose their babies during pregnancy, call their lost babies, ‘angel babies’. In parts of Senegal, women suffering from infertility are said to be affected by les anges.

The Angels documentary project will include two short video documentaries, as well as essays, features, photography and audio work for print, web and broadcast media. 

Angela Robson from Pearl Works will be working alongside Jane on the creation of an audio documentary for the Angels project.

The Grant

The EJC says: “Awareness about gender equality is now more universal and familiar than ever before. Yet much of the media coverage of the fight for gender balance often focuses on the struggles and challenges women face, and not the opportunities arising from them.

 “Against this backdrop, 12 projects recently awarded in the last round of the Innovation in Development Reporting Grant will tell empowering and under-reported stories of how women are transforming their contribution to society around the globe: be it by thriving at their jobs, fighting deep-rooted traditions or turning their disabilities into skills.”

 Photo by Antoine Tempe