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Leading Health and Human Rights Initiatives in Sahre Bookar

Ramatou and her daughter Miriama

Mamadou Ramatou Diallo (Ramatou) lives in Sahre Bookar, Senegal. She is the Coordinator of the Health Commission of Sahre Bookar’s Community Management Committee (CMC). Sahre Bookar formed a CMC when it began Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program in 2010. Composed of up to six commissions (health, environment, child protection, education, income-generating activities, and social mobilisation), the CMC is a 17-member democratically-selected group that organizes awareness-raising events and leads development projects designed by the community. A minimum of nine of the members are women.

In 2011, inspired by the knowledge of health risks and human rights violations gained in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), her community of Sahre Bookar held a village-wide meeting to discuss the abandonment of FGC and child/forced marriage. Consensus was reached, as community members confirmed that these two practices harmed the well-being of girls and women in the community. 

Now, as the head of her community’s Health Commission, Ramatou is confident that all girls in the community, including her 13-year old daughter Miriama, will benefit greatly from this new respect of their rights. Girls were formerly married as young as 13 to men of their parents’ choosing, but today they are assured the right to remain in school and to choose their own husbands after the age of 18.

Through the Health Commission, Ramatou has organized a number of awareness-raising campaigns in the community related to vaccinations, malaria, and risk reduction during pregnancy. She has seen changes since the arrival of the program, citing that all villagers now sleep under mosquito nets, parents now respect the vaccination calendars set out by the local health post, and expectant mothers attend pre- and post-natal consultations, giving birth at local health centers instead of at home.

Ramatou also started a health fund, with everyone in the village contributing 100 CFA ($0.25) three times a year. This fund supports health initiatives in the community, giving loans to villagers to assist them in the payment of hospital fees and transportation to appropriate facilities. Next year she hopes to use money from this fund, along with support from the local health post, to start a health closet that will ensure access to basic medication in Sahre Bookar.

With her knowledge and skills gained from the Tostan program, Ramatou has been empowered to play a leadership role in her region of Senegal, striving for better health and well-being for Sahre Bookar and surrounding communities.

Story by Anna Vanderkooy, Tostan Projects Assistant, Senegal