At Fort B Prison in Dakar, Senegal, the Tostan Prison Project team and the prison staff invited 80 juvenile detainees to share and discuss their everyday lived experiences as incarcerated youth, on the Day of the African Child, June 16. Since Tostan started implementing a modified version of the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in Fort B in 2011, they have taught detainees that, despite being in prison, they are still entitled to the same rights as all children.

Mademba Thiam, a Tostan supervisor, led the activities of the day, hoping to give the juvenile detainees the confidence and hope of re-integrating into society upon their release. The detainees showed their excitement and were keen to participate. They were asked to give answers to questions such as how they would live and cooperate in a communal environment outside of prison, and how they would respect the values and members of that community.

The Prison Director expressed his enthusiasm about the educational activities provided by the project in his prison. He was grateful for the CEP program, and how it facilitates the learning process of young detainees and supports them; for example, by supporting their income-generating activities such as poultry farming. He also stated that despite facing challenges such as financial constraints, and difficulties to monitor the activities after their release, he admired the optimism and motivation of the prison staff and the Prison Project team.

Overall, the event was organized so the minors could express themselves, share their experiences, and step out of their world for one day. Tostan still believes that detainees can regain their dignity and have the same hope for the future all youths aspire to.

Story by Céline Gendre & Tim Werwie, Tostan