During his 24 year career at Tostan, Dame Guèye has grown from being a field-based Facilitator in Senegal, to being recently appointed Senior Programme Manager at Tostan International, Dakar. Facing inevitable challenges along the way, Dame has also benefited from several opportunities to strengthen his professional skills, and advanced through the roles of Assistant Coordinator, Coordinator of the Empowered Communities Network and Head of the Community Development Funds at Tostan Senegal, before his recent appointment. In April of this year, Dame spent two months in the US, immersing himself in the English language and making valuable contacts for Tostan. Read on to learn more about his formative experience in the land of Uncle Sam.
What was the purpose of your visit to the US?
I went to participate in an intensive English language program at the Massachusetts International Institute of Languages and to do some presentations about Tostan’s unique and innovative approach to development.
Knowing how to communicate in English is a great asset to my work at the Tostan Training Centre. As well as facilitating training sessions in English, I will now be able to accompany Tostan partners on visits to participating communities and work with English-speaking organizations looking to partner with Community Management Committees and federations on development projects.
What did you do during your stay?
In April I took four weeks of English classes at the International Language Institute, with students from all over the world. At the end I sat an exam and obtained a certificate of success with an intermediate B1 level!
I then went to Westhampton, Northampton, Montague, Easthampton and New York to practice speaking English and learn more about American culture, for three weeks. I was lucky enough to participate in many community activities, such as cultural exchanges, reforestation activities, presentations on Tostan and a hike to the Monadnock mountain organized by friends! I especially enjoyed having the musical evening in Holyoke, organized by the Senegalese rap group Gokh Bi System and master drummer Massamba Diop. It was a great moment to introduce my American friends to Senegalese music.
Tell us about your presentation to UN Women…
On May 22, we did a presentation for 25 staff at UN Women, New York. I spoke about Tostan’s work, approach and extraordinary results related to the abandonment of female genital cutting and child marriage, as well as our contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. We also discussed the role of the Community Management Committees during and after the Tostan Community Empowerment Program, and the role that the Tostan Training Centre plays in disseminating our human-rights based approach across the African continent. We ended the meeting by sharing Tostan’s vision for scale, sustainability and impact for 2018-2021 with the UN Women team.
What was your favorite moment or place during your stay?
My favorite place was the village of Montague, Massachusetts, as I was treated like a real village resident during my month stay there. I was able to talk a lot about the work Tostan is doing in Africa and was invited to all the major community ceremonies. I also taught 25 of my neighbors a well known Senegalese song in Wolof: Gaal gaa ngi rabi (“the rowing canoe”).
Tostan is now very well known in Montague and, thanks to community leaders Marina Goldman and Leigh Rae, I got involved in lots of local activities. Being highly influential, I hope that they will be able to help Tostan identify future supporters and hopefully mobilize resources in the Greenfield, Amherst and Montague areas.
Congratulations on getting a Certificate of Recognition from the Mayor of Easthampton! How did it feel?
I was so surprised to receive this accolade from the Mayor of Easthampton, Nicole Lachapelle. My only intention was to talk about Tostan and promote our approach and results in Easthampton, as is so natural for me as I am passionate about my work. I was very touched to receive the award – and even more motivated for the work ahead!
Check out the video of Dame being honored by Nicole Lachapelle on our Facebook page.
What did you learn in the US? What will have the most impact on your work at Tostan?
During the 56 days I spent in the United States I was, of course, able to improve my English, which will help me to further support trainings at the TTC and allow me to represent Tostan internationally. For UN Women, I learnt a new way of talking about Tostan’s results by linking them to the Sustainable Development Goals, and experienced presenting to fellow development sector professionals.
I also got to know American culture and learned better time management skills. This trip to the US also allowed me to identify fundraising opportunities through American city halls, companies and universities. I was able to develop an important network of contacts in Northampton, Easthampton and Montague, many of whom showed an interest in participating in the Tostan training.
I have seen that if we can convince people of the effectiveness of our model, they will be ready to help us move forward and give Tostan the place we deserve.