“I learned a lot of things. I saw very dynamic communities. I saw communities who have not forgotten where they come from because they resolve problems using solutions from their own culture.”
-Odile Tending, Program Manager at Gorée Institute
On April 22, 2012, Tostan launched its Peace and Security Project in the village of Tankato Maoundé in the department of Kolda, Senegal. Funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), this project aims to address issues of peace and security in West Africa by connecting grassroots communities and their social networks with regional and international institutions. With this increased collaboration, regions, and nations as a whole, can work together to identify barriers to the peace and security of their area and create solutions that will overcome those barriers. Tankato Maoundé community members and Tostan delegations from The Gambia and Senegal participated in the event alongside project partners* and donors. The celebration included speeches, songs, and plays promoting human rights and its important role in achieving peace and security.
Abdoulaye Kandé, Tostan Regional Coordinator of Kolda, described Tankato Maoundé as a very “dynamic” community. He remarked, “We’ve noticed this since the implementation of the [Community Empowerment Program].” Abdoulaye was proud to host the event in his district: “The Peace and Security Project is very important in Senegal.” “Beside us [in southern Senegal], there is The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, and Mauritania. I think that [the project] must begin in Kolda in order for there to be peace in this region,” he concluded with a smile.
During the Kolda delegation’s presentation on human rights, Community Management Committee (CMC) member Awa Ballé Cissé from Sedhiou emphasized that “health has no borders.” Sedhiou’s CMC leads awareness-raising campaigns on family planning and vaccination in their village and throughout the region. “We went all the way to The Gambia to raise awareness,” she proudly shared while holding up the image Tostan uses to represent the right to health. She continued, “We must work hand in hand to achieve our objectives.”
The Peace and Security Project focuses on building ways to overcome barriers that limit an individual’s ability to develop, for example barriers to learning. “Education has no age,” stated the CMC Coordinator Abdoulaye Kebé from the village of Karsia. Karsia’s CMC has continued literacy and numeracy initiatives in their community even after the completion of the CEP and actively encourages the participation of all ages. They also work hard to improve the conditions of schools. By collaborating with local marabouts or religious leaders to improve the conditions of daaras (koranic schools), Karsia’s CMC demonstrates that education has no age or religion.
During the presentation on human rights, the Kolda delegation emphasized the importance of health and education in peace and security. “Today we must first think about health and education,” proclaimed Sowa Baldé of Kolda. Her community has created committees responsible for resolving conflicts peacefully. “We cannot have peace and security without health and education,” she concluded. Her final comment illustrates the importance of a holistic, human rights approach in achieving peace and security. Individuals must understand their fundamental rights, such as the rights to health and education, before communities, regions, and finally countries can respect them. Tostan’s Peace and Security Project is unique because, unlike many policy and government focused programs, its approach begins at the community level with discussions on these very topics.
Illustrating the importance of bridging gaps between donor agencies and field work—a main goal of the Peace and Security Project—representatives from Sida also partook in the day’s festivities. Jonas Bergström, Sida Program Manager, summed up the project’s collective efforts to bridge countries, ages, religions, and ethnic groups in his closing words to the community:
“We come from a very cold place and what we have learned from Africa is the African heat. This heat is turned into energy and is capable of changing the world. I am confident that the people here along with organizations like Tostan can change today into a better tomorrow.”
To view a full photo album from the Peace and Security Project launch, click here.
To watch video footage and interviews from the event, click here.
To read this article in French of Tostan France’s website, click here.
Story and photographs by Alisa Hamilton, Tostan Communications Assistant in Dakar, Senegal
*Project partners present included The Gorée Institue, Alliance of Migration, Leadership and Development (AMLD), African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), Femme Africa Solidarité (FAS), West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), Network of Peace and Security for Women in the ECOWAS Region (NOPSWECO)