Since 2003, Tostan has been implementing its Prison Project in a number of detention facilities in Senegal. This project aims to empower detainees with non-formal education and skills for better reintegration into society.
In 2011, after collaborating with Tostan in Thiès, the director of the Maison d’Arrêt et de Correction (MAC) prison in Diourbel asked Tostan to implement the project in his establishment. Three years later, after several exploratory visits and outreach efforts–and with the approval of the executive management, Tostan has just begun to implement its program in Diourbel.
On Wednesday, September 3, 2014, at the Governor’s Office in Diourbel, about sixty people gathered for the launch of Tostan’s Prison Project at the local MAC prison. Among them were administrative and prison authorities, religious leaders (Muslims and Christians), Tostan’s regional partners (NGOs, associations, etc.), journalists, and the project team, along with other Tostan employees from the national coordination office in Senegal.
After prayers led by an Imam and another by a representative of the Church of Diourbel, the President of the local Departmental Council, Khadim Gueye, opened the meeting and assured Tostan of his interest and support for this project.
Khalidou Sy, National Coordinator of Tostan in Senegal, gave a brief history of the presence of Tostan in Diourbel. Khalidou also stressed the commitment of administrative, traditional and religious authorities to the success of the project.
The Deputy Governor in charge of Administration and Development, Mr Mamadou Khouma, said he was pleased to attend the launch. He went on to praise staff members at the MAC prison in Diourbel who, despite a glaring lack of resources, do great work which even inmates themselves praise. He also emphasized the enthusiasm of the authorities for such an important project: “It’s true that Diourbel lacks resources, but when Tostan proposed this project, everybody was supportive, especially religious leaders. …We hope that detainees will never come back to prison after their release. Finally, we wish a lot of success for this project and we hope that the MAC prison in Diourbel could become a model for other departments.”
The Prison Project Coordinator, Aïssatou Kebe, and her assistant, Maimouna Sougoulé, explained how the project works, its objectives, and activities held in prison. She backed up what she said with numerous examples of former detainees who now engage in income-generating activities.
After these presentations and speeches, there was a question and answer session. One proof of the participants’ interest was that more than fifteen people stepped in to show their enthusiasm, to encourage Tostan, to seek clarification on the project, or to make suggestions.
Exciting new opportunities are developing in the Prison Project. As more and more support is obtained from administrative, religious, and prison authorities in Diourbel and beyond, the Prison Project team is eager to continue to implement activities with various partners.