The following narrative was acted out by a group of youth during the annual Tostan Youth Caravan – a four-day event where youth raise awareness of their specific rights and the dangers they face if those rights are not respected.
A young girl from a poor family is sent by her parents to work as a domestic worker in the home of a businessman. Soon after she arrives, the businessman exploits her vulnerable position and forces her to sleep with him. She falls pregnant. Due to her young age, she suffers serious complications during the pregnancy and dies while giving birth.
The Youth Caravan took place on July 3rd – 6th in the Upper River Region (URR) of The Gambia and included 66 participants from 33 communities who are participating in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP). The Youth Caravan traveled to three Mandinka villages – Tinkinjo, Kossema, and Bani – and met with community members at every stop.
The skit about the young domestic worker was something many participants mentioned as their favorite part of the Youth Caravan. Ansou Kambabye, Tostan National Coordinator of The Gambia, explained that it is very common for young girls to be sent to work as domestic workers and that parents need to be aware of the dangers associated with this practice. “Many girls suffer from these arrangements, and they feel ashamed to come back to the family. They know that the parents need the money.”
The youth chose to perform this skit about child labor and early pregnancy because it is a relevant and important issue to them. Throughout the Youth Caravan, they used theater and discussion to raise awareness about key topics in each community, including the dangers of taking drugs, child labor, and early pregnancy as well as the right to education and the right to voice an opinion.
Many participants appreciated the presentations about young people’s right to voice an opinion. One participant, Fanta Jawneh, said that before the elders in her community would make decisions without consulting the youth, but now they have realized that it is important to listen to everyone’s opinion. Even within families, many parents did not listen to the children or consider their voice. Through Tostan CEP class sessions on human rights, participants discuss how every human being has the right to be heard. Edrisa Keita, Tostan Assistant Coordinator in The Gambia, remarked that it is time for the old and young to listen to each other and discuss issues together.
The Youth Caravan is an opportunity for young people in URR to interact and make new friends while spreading important messages to the communities they visit. At every meeting, community members of all ages gathered to hear the testimonies and presentations of different rights and responsibilities concerning youth. In the evenings, cultural events were organized with music and dancing, providing a chance for community members to meet and have fun together.
Story by Mirjam Granrot, Tostan.