TOSTAN INC.: Khalidou Sy
Khalidou started his career as a Tostan Facilitator in Medina Yoro Foulah, in the Kolda region of Senegal, at the beginning phases of Tostan. He was continuously promoted over the years and after 16 years, he was chosen to be the National Coordinator for Tostan Senegal. However in 2014, he was elected Mayor of the District of Medina Yoro Foulah, in southern Senegal. Serving his community was his calling and thus he knew it was time to step down as National Coordinator and start a new chapter in his life. Yet, he never left Tostan behind. Tostan was and is the basis for his work as a locally elected official. In everything his community does, they use what they learned through the Tostan program. Through this strength-based and Human Rights-centered approach, his community works with local leaders, including Mayors and District Council members, furthering the notion that human dignity and collective participation are central to decision-making processes.
His work and early experience as Mayor became the basis for Tostan’s Strengthening Democracy and Civic Engagement (SDCE) innovation, consisting of training for District Council Members and Community Management Committees (CMCs) on their roles and responsibilities, as well as on practices for good governance. This new module empowers community members to advocate at the district level for the services necessary to achieve their collective vision of well-being. The SDCE program was piloted in Medina Yoro Foulah and will eventually be fully integrated into the Community Empowerment Program — Tostan’s three-year, non-formal education program that puts rural communities, like mine, in charge of their own futures.
His leadership and Medina Yoro Foulah’s experience with Tostan also made a difference in the community’s resilience during the pandemic. Community Management Committees (CMCs) — democratically selected groups in each community charged with implementing their vision of well-being — have worked closely with district authorities to support better health, a clean environment, and good hygienic practices before, during, and after the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, the CMC members conducted awareness-raising activities in public spaces. Through local radio broadcasts in national languages, CMCs and other volunteers informed their neighbors about the disease and its spread. Since March 2020, the District Council has distributed thousands of masks and hygiene kits to the communities, and the District Children’s Council is using booklets on the coronavirus in local languages that were developed by Tostan to help people better understand how the coronavirus spreads and prevention measures. Also, with the help of religious and traditional leaders, Medina Yoro Foulah and its neighboring communities have provided financial support to vulnerable people, implemented their own prevention measures including imposing quarantine, training additional community health relays, and having masks sewn by local tailors.