The path to abandonment begins with Tostan participants learning about human rights during the first phase of our holistic Community Empowerment Program (CEP). Through the use of non-judgmental language, CEP facilitators open a discussion about how child/forced marriage might pose a threat to certain human rights. For example, when a girl is married too young she is much more likely to drop out of school, experience health complications during childbirth, and can be vulnerable to domestic violence. Her rights to education, health, and protection among many others are at risk.
This phase introduces open dialogue to a community which often leads gradually to the collective abandonment of child/forced marriage. Participants are able to recognize that by abandoning this practice their daughters will be empowered to seek education and employment, allowing them to reach their full potential and contribute to the social and economic development of their communities. This has been the case for Fatoumata Sumareh, 16, from Touba Sandu in The Gambia. Her parents participated in the CEP class sessions on human rights and health and have respected Fatoumata’s decision not to get married until she is ready. Fatoumata decided to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor and continue her education.
“They proposed marriage to me once… but I want to get married at 18 or above, I do not want to get married before that because I am not ready.”
Fatoumata Sumareh, CEP participant (Touba Sandu, URR, The Gambia)