Babacar Diop, an imam from the village of Santhie Mamoundary in the Kaolack region of Senegal, first heard about Tostan in 2009 when his community hosted our “Empowering Communities to Empower Girls” project in partnership with the Nike Foundation. Also known as the CEP+, the project sought to address social and gender norms that limit girls’ development by incorporating extra class sessions focused on gender norms in Tostan’s existing Community Empowerment Program (CEP). While he was not directly involved in the project, he saw the positive impact of Tostan’s work in the community.

After the completion of the CEP+, the community was eager to further their learning and in 2013 began participating in our Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module. Babacar became involved and in January of this year participated in the RPP religious leaders’ workshop in Thiès. The aim of the workshop was to discuss the link between the teachings of Islam and the RPP and encourage them to promote a non-violent education for all children in their communities. During the workshop, he said that the most important thing he learned was that “the teachings of the RPP are identical to Islam.”

Upon returning to his village from Thiès and reflecting on the connection between the RPP and Islam, Babacar realized that the future of his community and neighboring communities depended on the wellbeing of its children. This simple fact motivated him to take what he learned during the workshop and begin to make changes within his own family, starting with his son. While studying in a daara (a religious school) in the community, Babacar’s son experienced beatings and was very unhappy. Knowing this information and his child’s rights, Babacar decided to enroll him in French school instead.

Outside of his family, he raised awareness in his community and in neighboring ones. The first day he got back from Thiès, he toured the public spaces, calling an assembly to speak about what he learned about non-violent education and the abandonment of violence against children.  He also visited five different villages with the CEP facilitator from Santhie Mamoundary and delivered a message of non-violent education in the same manner the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) educated his own children. He met with teachers at the school and went door-to-door talking with community members to explain why a non-violent education is essential for their children.

When asked about the biggest challenge he faced, Babacar responded that it has been “the long distances he had to walk in order to reach the other villages.” However, he claimed that the success he had in getting community members to adhere to the RPP approach made the journeys worthwhile. Today, Babacar continues to raise awareness and hopes to organize a conference to discuss non-violent education. He often tells others “if you adhere to the RPP, tomorrow you will have children who will succeed and who will conduct themselves properly around adults.” Having become familiar with the RPP program, Babacar now wants his entire social network to learn about the RPP for the simple reason that “their children are their futures.”

Story by Charlotte Greenbaum, Regional Volunteer, Tostan