On 12th May 2018, representatives from USAID, Partners Global, Tostan, Plateforme des Femmes pour la Paix en Casamance (PFPC), Partners West Africa and regional officials proudly launched the project ‘USAID UNAAM KAYRAAY’, or ‘Engaging Civil Society for Peace in the Casamance’ (CSPC). The initiative, financed by USAID, is implemented by Partners Global as lead partner and Tostan as one of the three sub-partners. The overarching goal is to strengthen the resilience of civil society, particularly women, in using non-violent means to resolve conflict in the Casamance region of southern Senegal, and across borders with Guinea-Bissau and the Gambia. Here, our intern Isabelle Wheeler introduces Tostan’s role in the project and show how our grassroots, human rights-based model engages civil society to contribute to the UN’s Global Goals, notably Goal 16 for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
Human Rights Education as a Base for Peace and Prosperity
Tostan’s Peace and Security module will be implemented in 40 communities that have previously completed the three-year Community Empowerment Program (CEP): 30 in Senegal and 10 in the Gambia. The CEP is a holistic and participatory program that has empowered over 3,000 African communities to fulfill their own visions for dignity and wellbeing since 1991. The CEP classes, facilitated in local languages, are often the first occasion participating communities have to learn about topics such as human rights, democracy, health and hygiene, literacy, numeracy and project management — knowledge which enables them to make decisions to improve their quality of life, and which they share with friends and neighbors to create a movement for positive social change.
Believing that there is always something more to learn, Tostan offers a variety of post-CEP projects and modules. These include our Reinforcement of Parental Practices module, the impact of which has been celebrated in an external evaluation by Stanford University, and the Peace and Security module, the ultimate goal of which is to empower communities with the knowledge and tools they need to create an environment of safety, security and cooperation from the grassroots. The module allows the positive changes engendered through the CEP (in areas such as education, health and gender equality) to flourish and develop for the wellbeing of all. The Peace and Security module was developed and piloted with the support of the The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) over the period 2010-2017. As a result, 120 communities in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and the Gambia established Peace Committees and resolved over 1,500 local conflicts. More recently in 2016, 5,285 women and girls from 120 communities in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Mali learned about how to prevent and resolve conflict in their communities, such as domestic disputes or arguments over land rights.
Engaging Civil Society for Peace in the Casamance
The ‘USAID UNAAM KAYRAAY’ project will run until November 2019, with the aim of creating a platform for peace and security across the border region of southern Senegal, the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. Border communities here share a common cultural heritage and maintain closely-linked economic, political, and security ties with the Casamance, which has been unsettled by conflict and unresolved peace processes for decades. USAID have stated that: “USAID CSPC will contribute to long-lasting peace in the region of Casamance by creating a space for the inclusion of local civil society and women in the process of peace. We believe that when local voices are significantly and intentionally integrated to influence decision-making processes, innovative and reactive solutions arise, creating a base of results with durable and long-term effects.”
Tostan facilitators have already begun leading classes in 40 rural communities on human rights and responsibilities and over the following 18 months they will teach peacebuilding theories and tools for conflict mediation. To respond more directly to specific security issues faced in this border region, Tostan will lead dialogues on the grievances, challenges and risks posed by illicit trafficking, as well as identify potential solutions for communities that do not put them in harm’s way.
Contributing to the Global Goals
Through the CEP and post-program modules, Tostan supports communities to contribute to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or ‘the Global Goals’. Our programs empower communities to form a base from which they can achieve their vision of wellbeing and prosperity, parallelling the United Nations’ model to build a better world where no one is left behind. The Peace and Security module specifically empowers communities to address Goal 16 for ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.’ In addition to the Community Management Committee (CMC) – the grassroots institution established during the CEP to ensure the sustainability of community development activities – Tostan helps to establish community-led Peace Committees. Tostan trains committee members in how to understand, prevent and manage conflicts, and provides mediation tools with which to lead peaceful dialogue around complicated and sometimes controversial issues. The Committees disseminate knowledge through awareness-raising meetings, and often become involved in local politics, mobilizing politicians at a local and even national level to listen and respond to pressing community issues. In this way, community members are empowered to build a movement for peace and justice from the grassroots up.
Please look out for updates and results from ‘USAID UNAAM KAYRAAY’ on our website and social media platforms.