“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This African proverb is ever so fitting to Song Kunda, a remote village located in the Upper River Region, Kantora District, and one of the first villages in the Gambia to participate in the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) from 2007 to 2009, as well as the Peace and Security module from 2011 to 2012.
Following its participation in Tostan’s non-formal, human rights-based education program, Song Kunda has seen incredible changes in its community, ranging from the reduction of harmful practices and maternal death, to increased school enrollment and improved child health. The village’s Community Management Committee (CMC) Coordinator since its establishment in 2007, Mr. Mustapha Sanyang, explained: “When Tostan came to our village, they gave us education through which we acquired knowledge and skills that nobody can take away from us, and our strength today can be traced back to those days when we were attending Tostan classes.”
As encouraged by the CEP, the Community Management Committee of Song Kunda plays a key role in advancing the community’s shared vision of well-being and achieving its sustainable development. CMC secretary, Mr. Gibril Banora, expressed his fascination that a decade after the program ended, they are even more aware of its impact on issues of high importance to them, such as health. “The modules on health and hygiene have greatly impacted on the community wellbeing. Now when it’s time for pregnant women to go to the hospital no one will question because everyone understands its importance.”
“We have witnessed a lot of changes in the community especially among women and children. Now our women make sure they visit the health facility during their pregnancy, they make sure their husbands at home know the importance of this, when they are about to deliver they have to book the community 3-wheeler which was donated to the community through the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA). It is managed by three different groups; VDC, CMC and the Village Support group, and is used as a community ambulance,” stated Kuta Sanyang, CMC head of micro-lending.
“I’m happy to report today that our women now take their babies for full immunization, routine weighing and medical check-ups. We no longer have many children suffering from malnutrition in the community, because everyone understands the importance of nutrition. Before Tostan, all our children used to receive regular supply of food and nutrition supplements from the World Food Programme; now that has changed. They used to bring over 40 boxes of the supplements and now they bring only 9 boxes which we hardly consume because our children are healthy,” Kuta added.