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Local communities commend Tostan-UNICEF Community Empowerment Programme

Jan 25, 2016, 9:55 AM | Article By: Abdou Rahman Sallah

Local communities of Upper River Region have commended Tostan-UNICEF Community Empowerment Programme for empowering them to lead the developmental processes within their localities, districts and region of URR.

Speaking to this reporter, Edrisa Keita, assistant national coordinator of Tostan Gambia, said Tostan struck the partnership with UNICEF and The Gambia government through the Women’s Bureau in 2006 as a pilot project which lasted till 2011.

The project was part of the corporation between UNICEF and The Gambia government implemented in URR and based on certain human indicators.

Through UNICEF support, Tostan was able to engage about 150 villages within URR.

He said: “Through Tostan non-formal education, under the Community Empowerment Programme, we have engaged local communities in their own local languages going through themes such as human rights, good governance, democracy, problem-solving processes, hygiene and health, feasibility study, project management and SMS texting among host of others in empowering them (local communities) to lead their developmental processes at all levels.

Based on the hygiene and health component that engaged community on human rights perspective, communities were taught and informed about some of the harmful effects of traditional practices, such as FGC child and forced marriages.

This is interesting and the communities began to see realities associated to the practices as they were taught in their own local languages by their facilitators.

During these processes the communities themselves shared their ordeals as a result of some of the harmful traditional practices, he said, adding that the social mobilizers reinforced them (communities) by creating platforms for the communities to openly share and exchange information regarding harmful traditional practices within their various districts.

The social mobilizers embarked on community meetings, house-to-house interaction in trying to mobilize collective voice and actions to voluntarily and openly declare their will without any reservations, he added.

“This is the event we are witnessing today,” he said, adding: “The voice of Tostan, the power of Tostan, the energy of Tostan is based on the communities we are working with because if they do not appreciate what we are doing, they would not accept what we told them.

“We facilitate classes wherein each facilitator would base in each village to undertake all the training modules with the community members in which the local communities would lead their own development aspirations.”

He also said that there are other modules of the training which include governance, education, health, environment and microfinance.

“These are key areas in the well-being of a community, which makes it key priority areas for Gambia government and UNICEF,” he said.

He commended the Women’s Bureau for partnering with UNICEF.

He said further: “We are expecting to do bigger declaration later in the year and plans are underway to expand the programme to cover the whole region and beyond as other regions have expressed interest in the Tostan education and empowerment programs.”

He used the opportunity through the Bureau to call on government and other partners to support the initiative to be able to expand to other areas that are in need of the programmes.