For over seven years, Demba Fatty has been heavily involved in Tostan classes and subsequent related projects. He is now the Secretary of the local Community Management Committee (CMC), as well as a village health worker. As Secretary, he keeps records of the CMC’s ongoing activities which include meetings held, community clean-ups organized, birth registrations completed, and social mobilization and income-generating activities implemented.
“During my 3 years participating in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Project (CEP), I learned about the human right to health and the corresponding responsibilities, which I have put it into practice. As a village health worker, I always encourage my family and community to sensitize women on the importance of monthly clinic visits, vaccinations for children and pregnant women, and the importance of nutrition for malnourished children. We now know the importance of human rights; therefore, the human rights violations of children—including child labor, forced marriage and female genital cutting (FGC) have been abandoned in our community.”
Demba tells us that before Same Koto participated in Tostan’s 3-year CEP, women were not actively involved in any decision making. Through the CEP, they all learned about women’s rights and responsibilities and as such, women are now heavily involved in the decisions around and the implementation of the development activities in their communities.
Demba admits that he encountered some resistance from other men in the beginning, when he first began to advocate for women’s rights and involvement. However, with time, he explains that these men came to see that Demba’s intentions were not to exploit women but to involve and support them. This in turn—Demba was quick to point out—would benefit both the community and the nation as a whole.
In addition to the rights of women, children’s rights are a high priority. Within Same Koto’s CMC they have a Child Protection Commission, whose responsibility Demba tell us is to “protect the children of the community and beyond.”
“My vision is to ensure that human rights are respected in my community, with an emphasis on the health of women and girls. That is the main constraint we are facing today.”