Siraba Traoré’s curiosity about her own human rights led her to participate in the Tostan class in her village Saidiu, in 2000. “If I didn’t know what my rights were, I wouldn’t know what duties and obligations I have to fill”. Today, Siraba is the Regional Coordinator for Tostan’s Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) project in Ziguinchor, a region in southern Senegal.

While participating in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) Siraba grew her confidence and became comfortable speaking in groups for the first time. “When I joined the Tostan classes, I became a leader in the neighborhood’.  In 2001, she joined her village’s Community Management Committee (CMC), a leadership group that is set up in each Tostan partner communities to continue development projects after the program has ended and in 2002, Siraba took a new leadership role, and began working as a facilitator with Tostan. Her career has taken her all over Senegal; first as a Tostan program facilitator in many different villages and then as a supervisor who trained and supported other facilitators until 2012.

It was during her work as a supervisor in the Kolda region of Senegal that Siraba was first introduced to the RPP project while supporting a pilot version of it in 2012. The goals of the project are to stimulate early childhood learning by increasing positive parent-child interactions. Siraba has shared the ideas behind the project, talking to those around her about children’s brain development. “At first, people thought I had gone crazy. But, I had the books, I had the documents, I had all of the support… I showed people that the child’s brain is like thousands of drawers that you must fill. I explained a little bit about different forms of intelligence to them.”

In July this year, Mame Sira supervised the next step in sustaining the RPP project in communities – training community members to promote children’s education themselves.  She has now been promoted to the Regional Coordinator for the RPP project and oversees the work of the supervisors and facilitators in the Ziguinchor region.

Through her work with the RPP, Siraba wishes to promote the ending of violence against children. A hope of hers is to organize more gatherings for children to come together to act out plays and express themselves – the goal being the development of emotional intelligence. “We have seen that emotional intelligence is very important,” she says. It is for this reason that Siraba says that her work with the RPP is what she is most proud of and says that teaching communities about the development of children’s brains and increasing positive interactions with children is very rewarding. Siraba feels a strong emotional connection to RPP, and puts much of her time and energy into the program. She sums up her commitment, “I will do all for this program, so that we can succeed.”

Blog by Charlotte Greenbaum, Regional Volunteer, Tostan