In the Malinke language, the word ‘maradou’ literally means “welcoming land” or “the place where we feel protected and safe”. In the 16th century, a hunter named Massia Sidi was traveling with his nephew, Fanta Kemo. Fanta, who was also a hunter, killed a pig near a water source in the forest. Upon returning to the clearing, Fanta informed his uncle of the water source surrounded by two kola nut groves. Curious, Massia followed his nephew into the forest. When he saw the water, he exclaimed, “We have arrived at our welcoming land,” and the village of Maradou was born.
The community of Maradou is located in central Guinea. It is now home to over 1,100 people, where families from the Sankarankas, Fulani, and Kourankos Soussous ethnic groups live together in harmony and solidarity. In 2003—13 years ago—Maradou was identified by a local partner organization as a candidate for Tostan’s three-year Community Empowerment Program (CEP). After community members expressed their interest in the program, 50 participants began CEP classes in January of 2004.
All these years later, Maradou remains engaged and active in social transformation—and not just in their own community, but in many neighboring communities as well.
Reflecting upon his experience in the program and since, one participant explained: “The Tostan program in Maradou created a context that was favorable for respecting human rights. Birth registration has become routine here and girls are better educated than before. Also, since participating in the declaration [for the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC)] at Bissikrima in 2011, we have not recorded a single case of FGC or child marriage in our community.”
Like all partner communities, Maradou set up a Community Management Committee (CMC) comprised of 17 members–10 of whom were women. The CMC received supplemental training on their roles and responsibilities as a new governing body in the community. Tostan provided Maradou with a development fund of 1.5 million Guinean francs (roughly $165) as support for class activities and social mobilization efforts. This fund was—and still is—managed by the CMC as revolving micro-credit among community members with an interest rate of ten percent. The resources generated by this fund, which is further strengthened by community contributions, have helped the CMC build a grain storage center and a market hangar. These ensure both further economic growth and aid in ensuring food security.
In addition to the CMC’s economic efforts, social mobilization agents (SMA) in Maradou have been hard at work on long-standing social issues. Demba Nafina Oulare, one of the most active and influential SMAs in the country, conducted several awareness-raising campaigns in Maradou and in thirty other nearby communities. He has covered topics such as FGC, child marriage, pre- and post-natal consultations, and immunization. Subsequently, his community of Maradou saw the need to have a health post, which they built in 2006, with the support of the African Development Foundation and in collaboration with the Mafou Western Union. Demba proudly represents Maradou in this union of 60+ member communities.
To date, the CMC continues to hold meetings three Fridays per month. During these meetings, the CMC members plan awareness-raising sessions in the community on topics such as health, education, hygiene, and schooling. They also manage a fund of eight million Guinean francs (or roughly $885) and a grain store containing a stockpile of 80 bags of rice in preparation for the period between July and August when food supplies tend to be scarce.
What has allowed the Maradou’s CMC to remain so dynamic 10 years after completing the Tostan program? Community members replied simply, “It’s a matter of personal commitment.” This commitment is not related to the presence or absence of Tostan, but rather is based on a common understanding of well-being—for oneself, one’s family, and one’s community—and a sense of responsibility and ownership towards creating and maintaining that well-being.
By Mouctar Oulare, National Coordinator of Tostan Guinea
Click on the image below to watch a short clip of community members from Maradou singing about happiness and well-being–‘sabou’ in malinké.