INTERVIEW WITH THE CHILD AND YOUTH OFFICER OF SAAMASANG FEDERATION

In today’s edition of the children’s corner, we will feature the Amadou Tambedouinterview Foroyaa had with the child and youth officer of Saamasang Federation Mr. Amadou Tambedou. He will be talking about the impact of the activities of his organization on children and the youth as well as its accomplishments.

Foroyaa: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Mr. Tambedou: I am Amadou Tambedou, the Child and Youth Officer of the Saamasang Federation, Brikama, Kombo Central of West Coast Region.

Foroyaa: What is your organization all about, its aims and objectives?

Mr. Tambedou: Saamasang is mandinka word meaning “Buying the future”, it is a community based organization and a child protection and development agency that is affiliated with Child Fund the Gambia. We exist to help deprived, excluded and vulnerable children to have the capacity to improve their lives and the opportunity to become young adults, parents and leaders who bring lasting positive change in their communities. We aim to promote societies whose individuals and institutions participate in valuing, protecting and advancing the worth and rights of children. Basically, we want to achieve three (3) things, we want healthy and secure infants and in doing so we target the pregnant women and children from 0-5 years. We want to have educated and confident children, we want every child in Kombo Central to be educated and confident and we also want to get skilled and involved youth. We as a federation cannot achieve this alone, we have to partner with the parents of those children, the community they belong to as well as the institutions within the community.

Foroyaa: What are your activities and what strategies do you use to implement them?

Mr. Tambedou:  We have developed a 3 year strategic plan in consultation with the community which is called Annual Operational Plan, which tells us what activities we have and how we will implement them. Partnership is very key in the implementation of our activities, for instance when we are implementing something on health, we partner with the Regional health team of West Coast Region. We also participate in the polio campaign financially. We trained communities in Kombo Central on child protection through which a community child protection committee was formed (CCP). These communities receive the necessary skills to protect the child and sensitize their community members and to report any child abuse issues to the police and they now know how to refer a child abuse case to the police. The security officers are also trained on child’s rights so that they do not expose or discriminate the child if it is a rape case. Her name will be withheld if not that child may live with that trauma for the rest of her life. We also pay the school fees of children and provide them with stationeries; we build their confidence by organising debates, quiz and drama competitions for them and we further encourage them to be involved in school governance and be part of the school Management Committees (SMC), which has not been happening before because we want them to be bold and vocal. We also encourage children to form organised groups and we support them. An example of this is the Saamasang Youth and Children Development Association. This has helped greatly because the number of students in grades 9 and 12 failing their exams is so outrageous, but they came up with the suggestion of summer classes for the students, which is organised annually for those students to improve on their academia. We gave them the resources and the technical assistance.

Foroyaa: How does your organisation get its funding?

Mr. Tambedou: Basically, Child Fund the Gambia is our main funder, but we also write proposals to other donor agencies.

Foroyaa: Do you partner with other organisations and government institutions?

Mr. Tambedou: We partner with the Department of Social Welfare, Child Protection Alliance (CPA), Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) and Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

Foroyaa: What challenges are you faced with as a child’s rights organization?

Mr. Tambedou: We are faced with inadequate funding and as a result we are unable to reach all the children in Kombo Central. Some parents and communities are not giving children the care they need to thrive in life. Responsibility of child rearing is left to the biological parents of the child. The culture of silence, too, is making child protection very difficult and the way the people perceive child protection too. The involvement of children in decision making is very low, especially those that concern their life. There was a 14 year old girl whose father wanted her to get married at that tender age, but we as a child’s right organisation and an officer from the Social Welfare intervened to stop it. We sensitized the father on the legal implication of early marriage and the importance of education and that girl was very brilliant in school. After this the parent promised us that he would support the girl’s education up to university level, but we don’t take promises like that and relax. We did a follow up and it was found out that the girl is still continuing her studies.

Foroyaa: Any last word?

Mr. Tambedou:  My last word is for any individual in the Gambia to understand that the child you protect and support to develop today can be an asset to the country and might be your own supporter tomorrow, so we should not discriminate any child.

Foroyaa: Thank you for granting me an interview?

Mr. Tambedou: You are always welcome.