Since May 2018, Tostan has been implementing the Peace and Security Project in 40 communities in the border zone covering The Gambia, southern Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. These 40 communities have previously taken part in the Community Empowerment Program. This project is one of several initiatives supported by the USAID-funded Unaam Kayraay, aimed at strengthening the resilience of civil society in this conflict-prone region of West Africa. Although the programming is expected to continue until November 2019, real change has already started to take root in many of these communities, with impacts on the lives of local participants. Here, we share with you Mamadou’s story:
Mamadou Diao, a 57-year-old father of seven children, lives in Sare Modou Diao in The Gambia. He credits the Peace and Security Project with helping him to resolve a longstanding conflict with his brother.
“For more than seven years, I was in conflict with my younger brother. He had wanted to take over my part of our family compound while I was living elsewhere. This disagreement escalated when he drove away my two wives, who had been living and working in my part of the compound. As soon as I found out, I went straight to the police without talking to anyone beforehand. He was soon arrested and ordered to repay my family’s losses. After his release from jail, he left the village and moved to Fatoto [a nearby town] without contacting me.
“When Tostan’s Peace and Security Project came to the village, my friend asked me to participate in the sessions. Those sessions gave me new insight into the role that peace plays in families and in the wider community, which made me regret what I had done to my brother. If I had known then what I do now, I would not have made such a quick decision.
“In November, the community entrusted me with a position on the Peace Committee. From there, I felt compelled to take the initiative to go to my brother, ask for his forgiveness, and bring him back to his family. This process of reflection and reconciliation after several years of estrangement was made possible by what I learned from Tostan.”
Mamadou’s story is just one example of many arising from the Peace and Security Project. By teaching conflict management techniques and peacebuilding theories, Tostan equips community members with the tools they need to bring lasting peace and justice at the grassroots level. The Peace Committees established through the project further ensure the sustainability and dispersion of this newly acquired knowledge across the region.