VILLAGE PORTRAIT: SUTUKO
Sutukoba is predominantly a Mandinka village located in the Wuli East District, approximately 48 kilometers from Basse, the administrative headquarters of the Upper River Region, in The Gambia. It is comprised of mainly two ethnic groups–Mandinkas and Jahankas. Sutukoba is a Mandinka phrase meaning “at the back of the forest.”
Alhagie Sankung Jabbai, current Alkali of Sutukoba is one of the grandsons of the founder of the village, Hamang Kareh Jabbai, a hunter who came from Mali with a group of his men on an expedition. During their trip, they would gather under a big tree called Daka, which was used as a shelter and resting place when they returned from hunting. One day, while they were sleeping under the big tree, the leader, Hamang, overheard one of the dogs telling the other dogs that humans think they are knowledgeable and know everything. But one thing they don’t know is whoever creates a village at the back of this forest will have a blessed village. Hamang quickly woke his men and told them they should return to Mali and bring their people to this space as they will have so many blessings and their people will be knowledgeable. When they returned with their families Hamang became the first Alkali of the village.
He was followed by:
- Ma Darboe,
- Burumang Jabbai,
- Suntukumba Jabbai,
- Karamo Jabbai (due to poor health, he served only two years),
- Afang Bakary Jabbai,
- Njari Jabbai (who served for almost 36 years and died in 1992),
- Kumuntung Jabbai, and
- the current Alkali, Alhagie Sankung Jabbai.
According to village leader, Sankung, having Tostan work with his village is a blessing. He sees the most important changes in his community as unity and cooperation among the community members. This is especially true for women who he credits for mobilizing to lead community clean-ups and for solving communal problems through dialogue and understanding.
Mama Jabbai, the Community Management Committee (CMC) coordinator is an inspirational participant and leader in Sutukoba who makes things happen through building bridges. She was married as a child, a decision taken by her parents when she was under 18 years. Mama was selected as a CMC coordinator based on her knowledge of human rights, inclusive dialogue, and the importance of communication. Mama is a committed women leader who does not impose changes, but works with her fellow community members and larger social networks to create consensus around ways to improve health and well-being for women and girls. She said before the Tostan program “we practiced child marriage and female genital cutting (FGC) as important to our culture, but we never knew the health complications of the practice. Our participation in Tostan classes helped us learn that these practices have lots of negative health effects on women and girls and also are a violation of their fundamental human right to health.”
As a CMC coordinator, Mama has successfully led a birth registration campaign, organized weekly community clean-ups, and engaged other community members to discuss issues of child marriage and FGC which were previously regarded as “no go” topics. According to Mama, this collective conversation with both traditional and religious leaders has motivated their cooperation with other participating communities to declare the abandonment of child marriage and FGC. She thanks the entire Tostan staff for their support in empowering them to know their rights and responsibilities and encouraging them to take ownership of and to lead their own development.
The Village Development Committee (VDC) Chairman, Maddi Diatta, noted from his perspective Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program and the formation of the Community Management Committee (CMC) has complemented the VDC’s efforts in realizing a vision for the community. He thanks the CMC and Tostan participants for their collective cooperation and collaboration.
Tostan, which means “breakthrough” in Wolof, is a non-governmental organization with international headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, whose mission is to support communities to develop and achieve their vision for the future and inspire large-scale movements leading to “Dignity for All.”
Tostan’s main intervention strategy is the Community Empowerment Program (CEP), an evidence-based three-year, non-formal, human rights-based education model developed in consultation with communities, and continuously adjusted and improved based on experience and research. The holistic nature of the CEP allows partner communities to define and fulfill their own vision on areas important for community well-being, such as education, health, governance, economic growth, and environment. The CEP also includes leadership development with Community Management Committees (CMCs), composed of 17 elected members – at least half of whom are women. The committee is responsible for defining and advancing the community’s vision for well-being and sustaining positive changes once the program is completed.
Learn more about Tostan’s work in The Gambia and other locations at: www.tostan.org