20 years ago, Marième Bamba’s life changed in a way she had not expected. Growing up in a Bambara village in rural Senegal, her fate as a woman seemed decided when she was born; becoming a young bride, forgoing formal schooling, starting a family and caring for a husband. And that’s exactly what happened when she turned 14 and married a man she did not know. Her choice in the matter was not considered, because social norms dictated the longstanding practices that defined her future in so many ways. But Marième’s life path changed course in 1992, thanks in part to the transformational experiences she had with Tostan.

Human-rights based educational sessions spurred Marième to take an active role in leading community development in Soudiane, one of the first villages to participate in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program. She continued to develop her skills through Tostan’s Solar Power! Project, a 6 month learning opportunity to gain essential knowledge needed to install, maintain, and repair solar panels.

Local leadership key in sustaining community-led well-being

Her steadfast determination to improve the lives of everyone in her community can easily be seen in her village: a new milling machine, a reforestation project underway, a trained health practitioner in the village, children with access to a local school, and every home with access to water and solar power.

Today, at 50 years old, this mother of four is a determined advocate committed to improving the lives of women and girls, and sharing what she has learned with everyone who will listen. She continues to lead Soudiane’s Community Management Committee, and travels to surrounding villages to raise awareness about human rights, hygiene and health, and the advantages of abandoning of female genital cuttting and child marriage.

She was honoured this March with the Prix de Femme Pionnière on International Women’s Day by the Minister of Women of Senegal, Ndeye Saly Diop Dieng, for her courage, unwavering determination, and leadership in improving the lives of women and girls.

This Senegalese grassroots leader’s story is a celebration of the powerful potential Tostan brings to communities across Africa. Support more leaders in the making today!