Since joining the Tostan team as a facilitator in 2007, Fatoumata Abdoulaye Basse has lived in and facilitated the full Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in two different villages in the southern Mauritanian region of Boghé. Facilitators, like Fatoumata, are the most important link between the Tostan program and our partner communities. They lead CEP class sessions on topics including human rights, problem-solving, health and hygiene, literacy, and numeracy, as well as help Community Management Committees (CMCs) gain skills they can use to lead their own development projects. Recruited locally, facilitators are fluent in the language of their community and possess a deep understanding of the local culture so they can explain important topics in ways that are relevant to participants.

From 2010 to 2013, Fatoumata has been working in the community of Boghé Dow, which completed the three-year CEP at the end of October along with 29 other communities in Mauritania. As a facilitator, she is especially interested in promoting community health, with her often repeated mantra being: “Il vaut mieux prévenir que guérir” – It is better to prevent than to need to heal.

Throughout her time in Boghé Dow, Fatoumata has seen the community take action to promote human rights in many ways. She explains, “Since the beginning of the program, I have seen a big change here. People really see that girls’ education is important now. Also, before, people in this village didn’t know how to prevent diseases or anything about first aid, but now they have learned a lot.” Also, just last month, Boghé Dow and 200 other communities declared abandonment of the harmful practices of female genital cutting and child/forced marriage at a public declaration in the town of Aleg.

Before working in Boghé Dow, Fatoumata facilitated the CEP in Ndoroon, another community in the same region, from 2007 to 2010. There, community members provided her with housing and food from their own funds, which is required of all Tostan partner communities as a way to invest in the program. Fatoumata explains, “Ndoroon was much farther from my hometown, so the community really took care of me. I lived in the same compound as the village chief, and even today I still keep in touch with the people there.” She continues, “We were really close friends. Even this boubou (a traditional outfit) I am wearing today was a gift from the people of Ndoroon.”

Working as a facilitator not only benefited the community participating in the program but also helped Fatoumata develop her own skills. She says, “The CEP taught me a lot as well, and leading the classes has been a good experience. Before I was shyer and didn’t talk that much, but now I am much more confident and have many friends, alhamdulillah!”

Story by Oumou Diop