Through Tostan’s human-rights based Community Empowerment Program (CEP), our partner communities learn skills to prevent violence and promote human security. These skills include improved communication and problem-solving methods, as well as the peaceful resolution of community and familial conflicts.

During one of the sessions of the Kobi 1–the first phase of the CEP–class participants learn about the human right to peace and security. They also learn about seven aspects of human security: the personal, economic, nutrition, environment, politics, community, and health. In this process, class participants are encouraged to use their own experiences to represent these dimensions of human security through skits, songs, poems, group discussions, etc. They also become empowered to solve community and familial conflicts that threaten their wellbeing.

After completing the Kobi 1 session on the human right to peace and security, participants in Ngolobougou, in the central-western part of Mali, discussed a conflict that had divided a family in their community for over 30 years. Despite living in the same compound, class participant Kany Coulibaly and her brother-in-law Mody Traoré had not spoken with each other for over three decades. Everyone in the community was aware of the situation but no one stepped in because they did not have the tools to address the issue peacefully, without offending either party.

After the class session, all class participants–including Mody Traoré’s two wives–decided to get together to visit Mody and discuss the situation. Mediation from class participants between the two parties eventually led to reconciliation. Both Kany and Mody pledged to leave past grievances behind them. As is custom in Ngolobougou, they both made this vow over a calabash of water splashed against a wall. This act symbolized the materialization of the reconciliation.

Women who were present danced and sung out of joy. Mody donated a small sum to the class participants and Kany offered everyone juice to drink out of appreciation. Peace was restored in their community after CEP participants assumed their responsibility to protect their human right to peace and security.

Story by Al Ousseynou Ndiaye, Communications Officer, Tostan