Thursday, February 28, 2013

NEW PHOTOS: Public Declaration in Fafacourou, Senegal

On Sunday February 24, 2013, 128 communities publicly declared their abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage in the village of Fafacourou in the Kolda region of southern Senegal. 

Learn more about the declaration and check out the photographs taken by Tostan Volunteers, Meagan Byrne and Allyson Fritz!

Local children put on a skit, organized by Tostan Supervisor Oumar Pam, discussing the problems associated with FGC and child/forced marriage. Photograph by Meagan Byrne, Tostan.

Audience members from the declaring villages watch as local children perform a skit about the dangers of FGC and child/forced marriage. Photograph by Allyson Fritz, Tostan.
While the declaration text was being read in three languages, French, Soninke, and Pulaar, representatives from each of the 128 declaring villages stood in a group, holding up signs with their village names. Photograph by Meagan Byrne, Tostan.

Aissatou Diallo, a student from the village of Fafacourou, reads the declaration text. Photograph by Meagan Byrne, Tostan.

Mouhamadou Gano, journalist for Agence France Presse, acts as master of ceremonies for the declaration, introducing speakers and cultural acts. Photograph by Allyson Fritz, Tostan.

View more photos from the Fafacourou declaration in our Flickr photostream!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Filming in the Field: Lamin Fatty Shares His Experience at the ‘Stories of Change’ Participatory Filmmaking Workshop

This post is from Lamin Fatty, Tostan Supervisor in The Gambia. Lamin recently participated in a two-week participatory filmmaking workshop made possible with the collaboration and support of Venice Arts, the Sundance Institute, the Skoll Foundation, and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). Tostan organized the workshop as part of larger project to increase participant-led storytelling after receiving the 'Stories of Change' grant. To learn more about the workshop, visit our website. 

Photographs by Alisa Hamilton, Tostan.
Lamin Fatty and fellow workshop participant, Khardiata Bodian, practice using the cameras at Tostan’s training institute in Thiès, Senegal.
I recently took part in the participatory filmmaking workshop organized by Tostan in Thiès and Kolda, Senegal. The training consisted of both theoretical and practical elements and lasted for two weeks. 
The theoretical aspects gave me and the other eight participants an introduction to documentary filmmaking, an overview of the evolution of filmmaking and cinema, and insight into the fundamental concepts of visual storytelling with emphasis on light, sound, composition, and story. We learned how to use a Flip video camera and basic editing techniques, completed homework assignments, and took part in group critiques. I really enjoyed working with the trainers from Venice Arts because of the participatory nature of their presentations coupled with their cooperativeness, understanding, and friendliness throughout the training.
Venice Arts trainer, Brigid McCaffrey, demonstrates how to use the tripod.
For the practical part of the workshop, we traveled to the region of Kolda in southern Senegal and divided into three groups to produce three films for Tostan’s Peace and Security Project. For this portion of the workshop we learned how to use higher quality video cameras and sound equipment.

My group made a film in the village of Karcia, 30 kilometers away from Kolda, about conflict resolution and inter-ethnic marriage. The film tells the story of a man, Oumar, and a woman, Aissata, who come from different ethnic groups; they fall in love and wish to marry despite resistance from their families. A marriage between two different ethnic groups was regarded as impossible even ten years ago and is still a source of conflict between families and communities. The film we made provides an example of how this kind of traditional conflict can be overcome with open minds and communication.
The filming process involved several stages. We started by meeting with the village chief and local imam to inform them of our activities and make sure they were in agreement. Over the course of five days, we gathered images of the village and conducted several interviews. We interviewed the coordinator of the Community Management Committee (CMC), a mother and a daughter, the couple, and Aissata’s grandfather. My favorite interview was with Aissata’s grandfather because he was very comical and reminded me of a typical village elder.
Lamy Fatty films family members at the home of the CMC Coordinator in Karcia, Senegal.
The most challenging aspect of filming in Karcia was the initial resistance and even refusal of some community members to be filmed. Once we explained that the goal of the film was to tell the story of Karcia as a positive example of conflict resolution, most people were willing. We also had difficulty quieting the curious village children!  

My favorite moment of the workshop was on the final day of shooting when we were filming the re-enactment of Oumar and Aissata meeting for the first time at the river. It was a beautiful scene and symbolic to have the two ethnic groups coming together at such a natural source of sustainable livelihood. 
Workshop participant, Khardiata Bodian, records sound at the river in Karcia on the final day of shooting.
The workshop was very important because it has given me, along with others from Tostan, a great opportunity to learn for the first time about the fundamental concepts of visual storytelling and to acquire new knowledge, skills, and techniques using the Flip video cameras. 
With my new knowledge and filmmaking skills, I will be able to contribute towards developing stories that can be shared in the countries where Tostan works and internationally. I will also be able to share what I have learned with the Tostan Gambia staff as a contribution to Tostan’s commitment to spread knowledge. I believe that building the capacities of Tostan’s local staff in skills such as filmmaking is essential in achieving Tostan’s mission of promoting sustainable development and empowering African communities.
Stay tuned for the final films on Tostan's YouTube channel


Friday, February 15, 2013

Sharing Tostan's Grassroots Approach with Policy Makers in Washington, DC

On February 6th and 7th, Bacary Tamba, the Tostan National Coordinator of the Diaspora and Regional Coordinator of Ziguinchor, presented at two panel discussions in the United States as a featured speaker. 

Bacary illustrated the process of community-led social norm change using the recent example of his role in organizing Senegal’s first regional declaration in Ziguinchor, with 427 communities publicly declaring their abandonment of FCG.

Read more about the panel discussions and briefings that Bacary attended on our website and watch the video of the declaration below.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tostan FAQ: What is behind the name ‘Tostan’?

Story by Courtney Petersen, Communications Officer in Washington, DC

Tostan is more than just the name of our organization. 
The word ‘tostan’ embodies what we strive to do: to share  knowledge, skills and resources that empower communities to set their own goals and create change on their own terms towards a vision of ‘human dignity for all.
So, what does ‘tostan’ mean?  
Today, our 22nd anniversary, we share what is behind the name! In Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal, Tostan means ‘breakthrough’ (as in the hatching of an egg), as well as ‘spreading and sharing.
This is evidenced in ‘the breakthrough’ experienced by communities when they decide to abandon child marriage after learning about human rights and health, and the spreading and sharing that occurs when they reach out to neighboring communities at inter-village meetings to spread their knew knowledge.’ 
The word ‘tostan’ was suggested to Molly Melching, Tostan’s Founder and Executive Director, by a friend and renowned African scholar, Cheikh Anta Diop. He believed that to foster democracy, development must be educational for all involved, always rooted in and growing out of existing cultural practices and local knowledge. 
Influenced by his philosophy, Tostan, the word and the organization, works within the local context of our participants. Our program begins in African communities with individuals coming together to form a collective vision for their future in which democracy, health, economy, and education thrive. It is through their dedication to learning and sharing knowledge, and putting that into knowledge into practice in order to  achieve their shared vision.
Our human rights-based education program, the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) is offered in 22 (like us today!) languages across eight African countries. Classes are taught in a participatory and respectful manner and include dialogue and consensus building, highly valued skills in African societies. Learners create songs, dances, plays, and poetry inspired from traditional culture to reinforce new knowledge. 
We believe that when participants start with what they already know, they can expand and ‘break through’ to new understandings and practices just as our name says.

Read how Tostan's name inspired one of our former interns, Farba M'Bow, and learn more about Tostan's founding history on our website.

Blog adapted by Salim Drame