Every Friday, we will share the story of a member of the Tostan team. The wide range of people who contribute to Tostan each bring with them a unique perspective on community development, and use their talents and knowledge in important ways to make our programs possible.
When Lamin Fatty tells me the story of his time with Tostan, it is also the story of Tostan in The Gambia. Lamin was recruited in 2006 when Tostan first began implementing our programs in The Gambia. He was hired as a supervisor, the key link in the field between the National Coordinator and the facilitators who lead the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) class sessions in communities.
Lamin has a background in development and an interest in working in the field that has made him a great resource for Tostan. “Before Tostan I was attending a school called the Rural Development Institute (RDI) in Mansakonko. It was a two-year program in integrated rural development. One day, I received a call from our principal informing me about an international organization intending to start programs in The Gambia.”
Lamin Fatty had spent most of his professional life before then working in the field of communications. He first worked as a journalist with a daily Gambian newspaper and later on as a communications assistant, before joining Tostan The Gambia as a supervisor.
The Tostan program’s strategy for creating social change is reliant on spreading new information throughout interconnected communities, so Lamin’s expertise in communications is especially relevant. Lamin believes that communication is key to social change, “without communication there would be no development. Development is all about taking decisions and implementing them. It cannot be done in isolation. Communication is important for all partners and stakeholders to make these decisions together.”
In addition to supervising the implementation of the CEP in the field Lamin has contributed to the success of Tostan’s programs through the local media in The Gambia. Recently, he participated in a training activity about film making in neighboring Senegal. He speaks enthusiastically about how powerful film can be as a tool for development; “Before you tell stories about people, let them stand in front of a camera and tell their own story instead!” During the training, Lamin worked on a team that created a film called ’The Crossing.’ He learned how to produce sound for the film, use the camera, direct, and translate from Mandinka, his first language. ‘The Crossing’ and two other films made during this training will be officially launched in October this year.
Lamin has seen the changes brought about on by the spread of information first-hand the form of several public declarations which have taken place in The Gambia since he began working with Tostan – gatherings which he cites as a continual source of inspiration. The power of these declarations took him by surprise, “when we started, I never expected that so many people would embrace Tostan’s approach towards ending harmful social norms. I was inspired by the participants, when I saw communities show their strong commitment towards ending these traditions. This was something like a miracle to me! Even for our facilitators it was not easy to talk about these topics at first. I used to say ‘This is a part of our work and one of our goals. We cannot achieve it without approaching difficult topics.’”
Seven years later, Lamin says that some of the most rewarding elements of his work are the strong professional relationships he has built within Tostan. “Staff members are like family members, and that is one thing that I like about Tostan. Where ever we go, The Gambia, Senegal or even Somalia – we are like one family. I think this is one of the contributing factors for us to succeed in reaching our aims. We need to support and care for each other.”
By Mirjam Granrot, Assistant to the National Coordinator in The Gambia