Two years ago, we recounted the journey of Aminata Jallow, who was then a participant in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in the Gambia. Aminata was living with her family in the village of Jendeh in the Sandu district of the Upper River Region (URR).  At the time, she demonstrated a firm commitment to pursue her education to the fullest, and that commitment stands firm today.

Now, at only 17 years old, Aminata is an elected member in her local Community Management Committee (CMC) as a social mobilization officer. She meets with the other members of the CMC to discuss villagers’ problems and community-wide issues. However, in addition to her engagement with the needs of her community, she has not neglected her own pursuit of a formal education.

Before the three-year CEP, Aminata said she was not aware of the negative aspects associated with harmful traditional practices, or the value of education. “The [physical] complications occurred before, but we were not aware that it was because of female genital cutting (FGC); now we are aware and know the problems.” Today, the community no longer practices FGC and child/forced marriage since it publicly declared to abandon these practices in 2012. She now believes that education is important. “It makes you aware of your rights and responsibilities, and will also help you get a job to earn income to help support yourself and your family.”

Aminata currently attends a Koranic school and enjoys learning about her religion. Next year, however, she plans to enroll in a formal school in a neighboring village, a 10 to 20 minute walk from her home. She will join others from her village who will make the daily commute to and from school.

Salimata Drammeh, Aminata’s mother, was also a CEP participant, and claims that the classes have changed her view on education. She said that if she had known the real importance of education earlier, she would have gone to school and waited to get married. She now knows the value of education. All six of her children are enrolled in either a Koranic or formal school.

Aminata now dreams of becoming a teacher. She hopes to share her knowledge with others as a way of showing gratitude for those who have shared their knowledge with her. She wishes for her children to be educated, to attend a formal school and to learn English.

Story by Beth Roseman, Regional Project Assistant in The Gambia, Tostan