In March Laangakwa and I (Rachel) went to Senegal as participants in Tostan’s (www.tostan.org) first training workshops. Molly Melching (Tostan’s founder and CEO) and her team were inspirational in imparting their aim of ‘Dignity for All’ and teaching the methodology for their ‘Community Empowerment Program’ (CEP). This program gives non-formal education in the local language of the people participating and is adapted to respect their local culture.
Providing this education transforms the learners and their communities and leads to meaningful and sustainable, positive social change. The community members themselves create pathways out of the dire poverty which so adversely affects their health and well-being. Communities who have participated in this program have decided to stop harmful social norms such as child marriage and FGC (female genital cutting), the right to be protected from discrimination, the right to peace, security, health, water, shelter,, and have improved their health care, education and economies.
The village training is given to those who ask for it and starts with teaching an awareness of human rights. This includes the right to be protected from all forms of violence eg FGC, to free speech and equality. Democracy is covered extensively, including the importance of democracy in the family as well as in society. The principals of social norms are covered, so that the participants can see why things which may be harmful, eg FGC, are perpetuated and how to change this in a democratic way as a community.
Laangakwa and I have returned inspired to share the same ethos and system with the communities WTWT are working with in Northern Tanzania!