Last week, Tostan International board of directors ended a week-long visit in The Gambia to see firsthand how the organisation’s interventions are helping shape lives in the West African country. As part of the visit, Tostan’s Board of Directors held their inaugural board meeting in The Gambia.
The organisation is currently intervening in the Upper and Central River Regions of the country. Its interventions are based on the visions, plans, and priorities of the communities in which they intervene. The organisation’s programs help communities understand how to get to their goals better and faster. Established in 1991 and headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, Tostan works to empower rural and remote African communities to bring about positive social transformation and sustainable development through a holistic, empowering education program. Its human rights-based program has reached more than five million people across eight African countries.
Carina Ndiaye, chief partnership officer at Tostan, based in Thies, Senegal, said the organisation is proud of the impact it has made in The Gambia. She said the visit will give the board of directors the opportunity to know what it takes to expand and understand what the Tostan model supports in The Gambia.
“We are looking at ways to financially and strategically support the ecosystem through government and bilateral agreements with the World Bank and the Gambia’s Ministry of Gender to see how we could support the ecosystem. We also had a meeting with the UNFPA on what it would take and mean to expand in the Gambia,” she said.
Tostan’s 2023-2030 roadmap
She disclosed that the organisation’s 2023–2030 roadmap is designed to provide a framework for achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals that apply to their programming.
“The strategy is to call for partnership for community wellbeing, so when we talk about partnership, it is number seventeen in terms of the SDGs, and the three main objectives are to amplify the reach of our programming through partnership. We want to double our reach—double the number of geographies and communities that have access to our programming, whether through direct implementation or partnership implementation. That is the first objective,” she added.
She said the second objective is to catalyse the ecosystem, focusing on how to create a better bridge with the people they are working with, their vision and the needs that accompany that goal, and the resources that are available through parties, organisations, governments, and anybody who is willing and able to support the community vision.
“The third aspect, like any good plan, is sustainability, so how do we reinforce the systems that are created in community development? How do we help those systems and reinforce them so that they can keep growing with or without Tostan?” she said.
Ndiaye said Tostan doesn’t have the human and financial resources to expand its programs in The Gambia at the moment.
“The idea is to have expansions through organised division, which is one of the methods that we use where communities adopt other communities, so there is an effort in social mobilisation that allows those teaching and spaces to discuss issues to be perpetuated not just where the program happens but in the neighboring communities where they have mothers, fathers, and where the husbands and wives come from,” she stated.
She said climate resilience is one of the biggest challenges communities in The Gambia are facing.
“We have listened to the communities, and the biggest challenges they are facing are issues of climate resilience, a lack of dialogue, and the ability to resolve conflict,” she added.
Meeting with the VP
The team, accompanied by the governor of CRR, Ousman Bah, was hosted by VP Mohammed BS Jallow, who during the meeting highlighted the significance of
Ndiaye said her team was impressed with VP Jallow’s understanding and knowledge of what Tostan does in The Gambia.
“We also had a 100 percent assurance from him that we will continue to work closely with decentralised and centralised authorities to support the communities in the best way possible,” she said.