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Tostan Gambia celebrates over a decade of empowerment partnership with 260 communities in URR and CRR

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Tostan, which means ‘hatch’ or ‘breakthrough’ in Wolof, is an international non-profit organisation headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Over the past 30 years, Tostan has led its flagship programme, the Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) in more than 3,000 communities in eight African countries, and is currently focusing its activities in The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Senegal.

From 2006 to 2017 in partnership with Unicef and Women’s Bureau, now Directorate of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, Tostan worked with 203 Mandinka, Fula and Sarahule communities in the Upper River Region with more than 50,000 participants. All the 203 partner communities have declared their desire to abandon FGC and child marriage, the latest declaration being held in the community of Sutukoba, in Wuli East in December 2020 accompanied by 57 other communities. 

In addition, more than 120 communities in CRR have also declared their voluntary decision to abandon harmful practices of FGC and child marriage.

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Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, Tostan Gambia suspended all class activities in early March 2020. Tostan Gambia like other Tostan national programmes with guidance from Tostan International adapted a well-structured response plan to educate partner communities and help protect their well-being. The team provided hundreds of hygiene kits, and detergents and also distributed over 8,000 booklets and brochures about general information and religious perspectives on pandemics such as Covid 19.

Between 2013 and 2020, Tostan implemented Peace and Human Security Programme in 30 post-CEP communities in URR (15 Mandinka and 15 Fula communities) aimed to contribute to the promotion of peace and security at the community levels. The communities are today able to resolve conflicts and promote peaceful coexistence amongst themselves and their neighbouring villages through the peace committees.

Between 2021 and 2023, Tostan scaled its programme into 60 new communities in the Central River Region (north and south).

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Two community radio stations were contracted to enable Tostan team to better disseminate information and preventive methods of the virus with the partner communities and general public in our national languages.

From 2006 to date, a total of 4,761 Community Management Committees (CMCs) were trained on their roles and responsibilities, micro credit management, social mobilisation and child protection and recently, decentralisation and peace and security.

All the 263 CMCs are formally registered and have legal status as charitable organisations and developed their visions for community well-being.

Tostan Gambia key figures – 2006 to date in URR and CRR

o          263 partner communities for CEP in 11 districts and 23 wards in URR and CRR. * 30 Peace and Security Project communities with 30 peace committees.

o          4,761 partner community members selected and trained as CMCs

o          203 CMCs all registered with legal status as charitable organisations with bank accounts.

o          More than 20,000 children registered and given birth certificates with the efforts of CMCs.

o          More than 50,000 direct participants, majority women.

o          More than 10 CMC Federations formed at district levels to scale collaboration and sustainability.

o          60 religious leaders trained on human rights and religion.

o          6 public and 15 mini-declarations on the abandonments of harmful traditional practices.

o          13 youth caravans organised with youth participants on human rights and youth communities

o          More than 250 inter-village and zonal meetings with local and regional authorities and leaders on human rights and health.

o          50 annual regional sharing seminar with TAC, local authorities and other partners on progress of CEP implementation.

o          Trained and engaged more than 200 women, men, religious leaders in social mobilisation and advocacy activities across the region.

o          Trained more than 150 women and youths as facilitators and supervisors.

o          35 Gambians trained in Tostan Training Center in Thiés on human rights and community wellbeing.

o          Trained 90 CMCs, 100 Ward Development Committees, and more than 50 local and elected leaders and area council members on decentralisation.

o          Organised 3 inter-country visits to Medina Yoro Fula to learn best practices on decentralisation and god governance, which led to signing of MoU between the two councils for effective collaboration on strengthening local governance and peoples centered decentralisation,

o          National level seminars organised with National Assembly Members, heads of national institutions, departments, bilateral and multilateral partners on Tostan CEP.

o          More than D8 million disbursed as community grants in 263 communities and a combined bank saving of D1.5 million in 60 accounts in CRR.

In collaboration with its national and donor partners, Tostan has contributed to community development and well-being over the years based on respect for human rights and responsible leadership and engaged communities for the creation of a social movement for the promotion of human rights and promotion of democracy and dignity for the abandonment of harmful traditional practices.

SEP 2023-2030 partnership for community well-being was launched in The Gambia in June 2023 in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare and Regional Launch at Janjangbureh with governors, chairpersons of local councils from CRR and URR and TAC, women leaders, chiefs and other development partners in attendance.

Tostan Gambia hosted the first-ever Tostan board of director’s meeting in Banjul, alongside partner visits in CRR and URR, Office of the Governor, TAC, women leaders, TTC alumni, Office of the Vice President and government partners, donors and international UN agencies.

Tostan office also opened at Tango headquarters to strengthen our collaboration and partnership with national and international actors, agencies and ministries. 

We recently conducted a 5-day orientation seminar on Tostan Model for Community Well-being with government institutions, CSOs/NGOs and other agencies as part of sharing our community empowerment programme and innovative programmes and approaches. We are looking forward to greater partnership and collaboration in 2024 and beyond.

The NGO is planning to launch a new Programme in 40 new communities in 6 districts in CRR and Early Childhood (RPP) in 20 post-CEP communities in CRR North and South in 2024 and beyond.

Tostan Gambia executive director, Edrissa Keita stated: “We send our sincere thanks and gratitude to our board of directors, executive team led by CEO Elena Bonometti, the Government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Office of the Governor  in CRR and URR, local councils, chiefs, women and youth leaders, community and religious leaders and social mobilisers as well as our dynamic staff for making these transformations possible over the years. To our donors and funding partners in The Gambia and abroad, we are grateful and looking forward to more collaboration in the coming years.”

The NGO can be reached on email at www.tostan.org.

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