Tostan supporters play an integral role in building momentum for our community-led development programs. Our Outstanding Supporter Blog Series highlights their creative efforts to inspire support for Tostan in their communities.
Souleymane Coulibaly was born in the town of Sirakorola, Mali in 1967. Situated 120 kilometers outside of the Malian capital of Bamako, it is comprised of 55 smaller villages and is primarily home to Bambara farmers. Growing up, Souleymane was dedicated to his education and excelled in school. Upon graduation, he became a farmer, like many who live in the region, and saw firsthand the many challenges community members experience in Sirakorola, namely lack of infrastructure, formal education, and limited access to health facilities. This led him to reflect on his own fortunate education and realize he wanted to make a difference; he wanted to help put Sirakorola on a path to development. The way he decided he would have the greatest impact was through Sirakorola’s local politics.
In 2004, Souleymane was elected Mayor of Sirakorola. He held this office for the full five-year term and was re-elected in 2009 for another five years. During his tenure, Souleymane traveled within the region and saw handmade signs noting Tostan’s presence in communities. Curious as to what the Tostan signs represented, he asked a colleague, the mayor of Méguétan, who described Tostan and explained the positive impact that its programs had throughout Méguétan. Later, at a regional political meeting, Souleymane met Drissa Diarra, a social mobilization agent for Tostan, who explained Tostan’s impacts in five key areas: education, health, environment, governance, and economic growth. He liked what he heard and decided to pursue the Tostan program for Sirakorola.
After consulting with Tostan staff, Souleymane called an advisors meeting to discuss how to bring Tostan to the community. He reminded them of the development plan that they all put together at the beginning of his term – a plan that involves social, economic, and cultural elements – and noted that Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) touched on all those elements. He compared Tostan to other education programs and said Tostan asks and listens to the people, and it often employs local men and women from the area to become facilitators for the program. After much deliberation, officials in Sirakorola decided to welcome Tostan. 40 communities were selected to begin the CEP in 2014, and they are currently still participating in the program.
Mayor Souleymane Coulibaly made Tostan a cornerstone of the development plans for his town. He has led additional activities to support his community’s development including gathering village chiefs together to share information about Tostan, traveling to villages to personally explain the importance of the CEP, and producing radio shows about Tostan to promote education and dignity for all. Further exemplifying his commitment to Tostan and Sirakorola is the fact that Souleymane has personally financed these meetings and trips to share Tostan’s work and often lets Tostan use the townhall for meetings free of charge.
As a man who dreams of making great strides in development and whose favorite part of the job is providing his community better services and quality of life, Souleymane Coulibaly is a wonderful Tostan partner and advocate.
Story by Alyna Rogow, Development Assistant, Tostan