Sixteen year-old Fatoumata Sumareh was born in the community of Touba Sandu in the Upper River Region (URR) of The Gambia, where she lives with her mother and father and her younger siblings. Fatoumata participates in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), which began in her village in the spring of 2011.
Fatoumata is a keen participant in Tostan’s CEP class sessions. She was inspired to join the program because of her desire to further her knowledge about themes in the CEP, such as human rights, health, literacy, and project management.
In addition to attending Tostan classes, Fatoumata is currently enrolled in Grade five of the Koranic school in a nearby village. “I enjoy this education and I love to learn! I want to learn everything I can.’’ Fatoumata is dedicated to her studies both with Tostan and at the Koranic school and has strong ambitions to take her education to the highest level: “In the future I would like to be somebody who is very educated. I would like to be a doctor.’’
I want to get married at 18 or above, I do not want to get married before that because I am not ready.Fatoumata
Fatoumata’s parents approached her about marriage in 2011. She said: "They proposed marriage to me once… but I want to get married at 18 or above, I do not want to get married before that because I am not ready."
Through Tostan’s classes on human rights and health, parents are encouraged to let their children chose their spouses after they turn 18 and are educated on child protection and the harmful consequences of early pregnancy. Fatoumata’s parents respected her decision. Reduced rates of child/forced marriage have been some of the most prominent and visible results of the Tostan program.
Speaking with great confidence about her ambitions for the future and becoming a doctor, 16 year old Fatoumata is excited about participating in the Aawde, Tostan’s literacy programme, and using her knowledge and skills to reach her goals and improve the well-being of her family and community.
Support girls like Fatoumata: visit Tostan's Get Involved page
In the time it has taken to read this article 11 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds
Lilli Loveday is Tostan Projects Assistant in The Gambia.