Tucked behind several larger villages, far from the nearest paved road, Sahre Bookar is a Pulaar village of 215 people. Named after its founder, Bookar, who moved from a nearby Wolof village, the principle sources of revenue include herding, agriculture, small business, masonry, and teaching. Sahre Bookar is over two kilometers from Thiaré, the capital of the rural community, where village children attend school and community members often go to work or buy necessary household materials.
The community first learned about Tostan’s work many years ago, when Tostan programs in nearby villages led to considerable health and hygiene improvements. Interest was further piqued through radio programs hosted by Tostan staff in the local language of Pulaar that addressed themes such as human rights, education, and the abandonment of harmful health practices.
When Mamadou Diallo, son of the village Imam, became a Tostan facilitator in 2008, he encouraged the village to formally request the Tostan program in their own community. In 2010, Tostan began its three-year Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in Sahre Bookar. Regular CEP classes facilitated participant discussion about human rights, democracy, hygiene, health, and problem-solving, further building community capacity by teaching practical skills in reading, writing, math, and project management.
Sahre Bookar’s democratically selected Community Management Committee (CMC), created in the first stages of the CEP, coordinates activities in and out of the Tostan classroom. Composed of nine commissions – each responsible for addressing a different area concerning the village, such as education, health, and the environment – the CMC is made up of 17 members, at least half of whom are women. Perhaps the most visible changes made in the community have come from the CMC’s Income-Generating Activities (IGA) Commission.
The IGA Commission has funded the creation of a variety of new income-generating activities, including a local market and livestock-raising projects (goats, sheep, and chickens). The fund, started with a community grant from Tostan and village-wide donations, grows with loan and interest repayments, as well as additional monthly contributions of 50 CFA ($0.10) per community member. Loans are repaid every two months, with interest, into the fund’s bank account.
The new local market ensures villagers daily access to necessary food items without having to travel several kilometers to purchase goods in Thiaré. Every two months, a new woman, trained by the previous market manager, takes out a two-month loan from the fund to manage the local market, thus increasing entrepreneurial experience and skill development in the village. The CMC plans to begin collecting additional monetary contributions for a community field, where villagers will grow vegetables that can meet community needs and be sold at various local markets.
CMC coordinator Habi Diallo said that the implementation of the CEP in their community has given women the confidence and skills necessary to make new, profitable investments that will increase their households’ incomes. Community members are currently researching further income-generating opportunities and several have expressed interest in undergoing further trainings (including vegetable processing, soap making, fabric dyeing) to better manage their activities. Many also hope to raise funds and find external development partners in order to further health, electricity, and education initiatives in the community.
Sahre Bookar is a village coming to life with new knowledge, skills, and initiatives and has big plans for the future: electricity, a health post, better access to a public school, and a millet-grinding machine. With the skills and experience gained in the management of small-scale income-generating projects, the community has laid the groundwork for bigger future initiatives. Each success breeds new confidence, and the community works together daily on their quest for an even brighter future.