On June 19, 2014, Tostan Gambia, in partnership with UNICEF and the National Women’s Bureau of The Gambia, organized a day long information seminar to talk about Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), to development partners in the Upper River Region (URR), The Gambia. The seminar was held at the Regional Education Directorate Conference Hall in Basse, Mansajang Kunda.

The objectives of the seminar were to empower regional stakeholders and enhance integrated development efforts in URR. Tostan Gambia shared with and answered questions from community leaders and development partners on the current status of implementation of the CEP, but also on Tostan’s objectives, and strategies of implementation.  This was combined with partners and community members who provided Tostan with feedback on performance, and recommendations for improvement.

Seminar participants included Regional Technical Advisory Committee members, heads of various government departments operating in URR, NGOs, local leaders, media representatives, as well as members from our partner communities in the region. The seminar attendees expressed delight in being associated with Tostan and for the unique opportunity to meet together.

The Chairperson of the Basse Area Council, Jahara K Juwara, thanked the Tostan Gambia team for contributing to the empowerment of communities in the URR. He stated that, the participatory element of the CEP also complements the development efforts of the Area Council and The Gambian government.  Juwara also assured Tostan of his office’s continued support and collaboration.

Kebba Keita, the Regional Ombudsmen in the URR, also expressed similar sentiments. While he has not participated in Tostan’s program, he attended several intervillage, interzonal meetings and declarations, both at the regional and community level.  He said he learned a lot from his involvement with Tostan, claiming that the program also complements the government’s efforts towards sustainable national development. He was grateful to Tostan Gambia and CEP participants for their engagement.

Speaking on behalf of the URR police commissioner, the Basse police station Operation Commander Momodou Danso, commended Tostan Gambia for complementing the efforts of law enforcement to maintain peace and security in rural communities, though this he pledged to fully support Tostan communities.

Overall, the information seminar provided a useful platform for introducing the CEP to concerned actors in the region, and to strengthen partnerships. During the discussion, participants recommended that such seminars continue on a periodic basis in order to facilitate continued discussion and collaboration, and enable leaders in the URR to support communities seeking empowerment through the CEP.