Interview with Edrisa Keita, National Coordinator, Tostan Gambia
Good leadership takes many forms. Community-led development for improved well-being requires committed leaders at many different levels, including across the Tostan team. Edrisa Keita, National Coordinator of the Gambia at Tostan is a social change leader and recently became certified at the Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureate Virtual Leadership Institute. This is a digital leadership development program powered by Atlas Corps, where Edrissa completed the course with Distinction. Edrisa reflected on the program and his work at Tostan to share what good leadership looks like to him.
What does good leadership look like and mean to you?
Good leadership is hard work, trust, responsibility, and a long bumpy road with stairs to climb! A good leader should be adaptable, inspiring, and should work with a clear direction to take decisions, even if it includes sacrificing oneself.
What was your biggest takeaway from your time with the Atlas/Hilton leadership program? What surprised you?
During the program with Atlas and Hilton, I learned more about leading social change movements. I was especially interested in a focus on incorporating empathy and compassion into leadership. I learned critical skills on building resilience in times of uncertainty, along with techniques of giving and receiving feedback. I hope I can take the important things I learned and apply them to my work at Tostan.
Who is a leader that inspires you?
Since beginning work at Tostan in 2006, I have interacted with many inspiring people in leadership positions – however I am most deeply inspired by Tostan’s founder, Molly Melching. Molly’s message from the beginning touches on skills and learnings from the development course with Atlas and Hilton. Molly is open-minded, willing to learn, and is development-oriented, with focus on work from the ground up.
When it comes to decolonizing and decentralizing international development, what do you think needs to be improved in the sector? How does diverse leadership support that?
I think what could be improved is the focus of organizations. They should refocus their strategy on the people and communities in which they work. People in communities are an integral part of the development process and they should be seen and see themselves in this position. This is vital to transform society in an inclusive and sustainable manner.
Tostan’s work seriously explores African traditions, values and expectations as part of our core strategy. We strengthen positive African traditions by reinforcing an inclusive approach to development as a whole. At the same time, Tostan continually learns from an African perspective and incorporates it into its programming. This is an important ingredient in decolonizing development practices and approaches.
To add, Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program is a positive example for sustainable development globally because it helps create strategy, a system of tracking and analysis, all while including communities in a language they can understand.