TOSTAN transforming rural Gambia
Friday, August 10, 2012
in the Upper River Region of The Gambia are enjoying the pleasures of social
development and having the lives of their inhabitants transformed, thanks to
the intervention of TOSTAN Gambia, a rural NGO operating in the upper part of
project in partnership with The Gambia government and supported by UNICEF aims
at ensuring dignity for all through social mobilisation and community
empowerment. After three years of community-based intervention, traces of
social advancement and greater move towards sustainable empowerment of the
grassroots are visible in the communities of intervention.
the intervention of Tostan, locals say their communities were practicing
harmful traditional practices like FGM, not sending their children to school,
paid little attention to health and hygiene particularly for children, while
there was disengagement of women and girls in the day to day affairs of their
communities. The communities also had no planned micro development schemes to
better their lots aside their annual dependence on farming and periodic
the coming of Tostan, they have abandoned harmful traditional practices such as
female genital cutting; increased enrollment of children in schools
particularly girls, witnessed the emergence of female leadership and increased
income and livelihood, ensure registration of children at birth, increased use
of vaccination resources and reduced infant and maternal mortality rates and
benefited from increased awareness on human rights and democracy issues among a
host of others.
were last Friday invited by Unicef to visit Tostan project sites, dialogue with
local people and see for themselves the effect of Tostan in rural Gambia. The
visit, which was part of the social policy component of the new Unicef country
programme and dubbed Media Support for Advocacy took journalists to Kanubeh
village some 10 kilometers away from Basse for a direct interaction with the
beneficiaries of the Tostan support.
Welcoming the media advocacy team, the alkalo of Kanubeh, Bakary Darboe, expressed his gratitude to Tostan, Unicef and the government for the great strides achieved in the village. He urged other NGOs and organisations to emulate the good work of Tostan.
The chairman of the village development committee, Kesutung Jarra, was also full of praises for Tostan, acknowledging that before their intervention in his village many of them were illiterate but now they are aware of best practices in health and take part in community service and decision-making process. “Since the intervention of Tostan a few years ago, tremendous gains and strides have been made in the areas of health and nutrition, education, problem-solving and mediation,” the VDC chairman told the meeting held at the village bantaba.
Before the introduction of the Tostan programme, women were not allowed to take part in decision-making process in the village. “Whatever we learnt from Tostan has been disseminated to others who are less privileged,” he added whilst calling for the expansion of the project to other parts of the region. During the briefing session some women demonstrated what they had learnt and how they are implementing the outcome of the project. They also said they would be able to sustain the project.
directly with journalists without reservation, the villagers of Kanubeh where
very fluent, direct and exhibited greater understanding of what Tostan brought
into their community. Their quick response to questions from journalists and
firm control and direction of the meeting during an open discussion session
symbolises that with Tostan Gambia, rural Gambia is under massive
transformation. And after two and half hours of discussions, journalists left
the village with firm awareness that the village of Kanubeh has changed for the
better and the determination of the villagers to sustain that change was also
The Unicef communication specialist, Sally Sadie Singhateh, who led the media advocacy team told the meeting that knowledge and information sharing was a vital tool for development, and urged the media practitioners to increase their advocacy in order to increase the awareness campaign.
The Unicef communication specialist urged them to apply the knowledge in practical ways that will better shape their lives adding that Unicef felt proud that the project has impacted positively on the community.
Author: Gibairu Janneh