Meet Madame Hadya Woundé Bailo Diallo, an inspirational woman from the community of Ndjolou in the prefecture of Labé in Moyenne Guinée.  

The community of Ndjolou has been participating in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program since December 2009 and Hadya has been attending the class sessions every week.  In 2010, she also became a member of Ndjolou’s Community Management Committee (CMC).  

Last month, when we visited Ndjolou, Hadya was first in line to share with us recent stories and activities from the community. 

Hadya sat in the front row of a room packed with people with a small boy stretched across her lap.  In response to her enthusiasm, we encouraged her to share the story and, although as guests we were situated in chairs in the front of the room, all eyes and ears were fully concentrated on her.

Hadya had a look of determination as if in fear that we would not grasp the importance of her words, the small boy on her lap looking up at her expectantly.  She did not hesitate as she began her story.  

She told us that although one would never know it, the baby in her arms did not always have the chubby features and bright face of a healthy child. When Hadya had first met Kaikou, he was completely malnourished and in a “heartbreaking state”. Kaikou was born in a small village in Moyenne Guinée to a young girl who was still a child herself.  According to traditional beliefs, unmarried pregnancies are unacceptable and bring disgrace upon the family to the extent that the family may completely shun the mother and baby. The young girl was unable to raise the child and neglected him. She also neglected herself and did not attend post-natal appointments and she subsequently died. Her grandmother then looked after the child, but like Kaikou’s mother, she too was under pressure by the family to get rid of him.

Hadya heard about the state of Kaikou’s health through a friend and quickly called upon the grandmother to visit him. When she met him, his face was shrunken, his eyes swollen shut and his skin blackened. Hadya told us that she immediately thought of the different Tostan classes she had participated in, specifically those on human rights where she had learned that everyone  has the right to a name and a family, to proof of birth and to be treated well and live in good conditions. She remembered that everyone is equal regardless of age or gender and when confronted by someone in difficulty, it is the responsibility of others to ensure that person’s rights are respected too.

In a state of panic she begged to take care of the child to which the grandmother agreed.  Hadya said that she then put her health knowledge gained through Tostan classes into action and took Kaikou directly to the hospital instead of going to a traditional healer. She gave him medicine and took care of him as best she could and little by little Kaikou’s health began to improve; after two months he was able to open his eyes again. Hadya remembered Tostan’s module on the right to a birth certificate and the importance of formalizing family status according to the law. As soon as he was well enough, she took Kaikou to the local government building and, after consulting with his grandmother, registered his birth and was named as his legal guardian. He was given the last name of Hadya’s husband who supported her throughout the entire process. Kaikou now is one year and three months old. 

When Hadya fell silent at the end of her story, no one’s eyes left her face while the child slept soundly in her lap without a care in the world.

Hadya stressed that without the knowledge she had gained through Tostan’s program,  Kaikou would not be alive today. She knew the right choices to make when faced with the difficult situation threatening Kaikou’s civil liberties, health and legal requirements. She told us that she feels the class sessions on child protection, human rights, health and education have reinforced her ability to take care of her new child and with a look of determination in her eyes she promised to provide him with the best education she could manage. Hadya vowed to continue to spread what she learned from Tostan’s classes to her family, friends and neighbors so they too could approach every situation with an informed understanding of basic human rights and responsibilities of all to respect those rights.  

Blog by Victoria Ryan, Assistant to the National Coordinator, Guinea