In West Africa, over 30,000 women who have participated in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) have become leaders in their villages and local districts. Fatoumatta Jabbie’s story illustrates the potential of women’s leadership when given opportunity, skills, and confidence.
Fatoumatta’s journey includes six years as a facilitator, sharing Tostan’s effective Community Empowerment Program with partner communities in the Upper River Region of the Gambia, while building her public speaking skills and confidence.

“Before joining Tostan as a facilitator, I was shy and ashamed to speak in public”, Fatoumatta says. “But after being selected and trained as a facilitator, I developed self-confidence to facilitate class sessions in communities. Working as a facilitator at Tostan gave me the courage, energy, and enthusiasm to address bigger public gatherings throughout the region among women and men, as opposed to before. I learned a lot of new skills from the Tostan program that greatly enhanced my personal life. Most importantly, I was able to understand developmental issues from a broader perspective.”

As Fatoumatta’s knowledge, experience, and confidence grew, she felt empowered to run for a position on the National Women’s Council and she succeeded in being elected to a position representing the Upper River Region of The Gambia. She credits Tostan with giving her the confidence and skills she needed to run a successful campaign and be an effective Councillor.

“The knowledge I acquired at Tostan greatly influenced my decision to run for a political office as a candidate for the position of National Women Councillor for my district,” Fatoumatta says. “During the campaign, I promised women of my area that they will have a stronger voice at the council when I am elected, and that is exactly what I am doing. I was able to face and mobilize women to vote for me and I won, thanks to Tostan. The most interesting thing is that all the other six Women Councillors that won a seat on the National Women’s Council from the Upper River Region were all previous participants of Tostan CEP classes.”

Fatoumatta now serves in a leadership role on the National Women’s Council as Vice-Chair.

“Today, I am known throughout The Gambia as a woman leader. I see the National Women’s Council activities as a continuation of the advocacy for the rights and welfare of women as taught in Tostan CEP classes. To me, the Tostan program promotes social justice and peace as it empowers women, men, girls, and boys on all fundamental human rights and responsibilities that trigger confidence in oneself to stand up and speak against any form of injustice respectably through dialogue.”