Aissato Baldé (18), an enthusiastic community volunteer has turn into a role model for her peers
Aissato Baldé is using her communication skills to pass on COVID-19 preventive measures and engage with her community in Tassilima.
As the world is struggling to find effective ways to halt the spread of the COVID-19, young reporter Aissato Baldé is playing a significant role in her community in Tassilima to prevent the pandemic by sharing key information on COVID-19 prevention with her community.
There is a lot to say about Aissato, a young high school girl with round brown eyes, living in remote Tassilima. Despite having to walk every day - in both directions and under temperature rounding 40 degrees Celsius - the 12 km, which separates her community from the village of Gabu, where her school is located, Aissato still finds time to volunteer and learn new skills. Although, Aissato is only in eighth grade, she is already working towards realising her dream to become a medical doctor.
Aissato knows that achieving her dream will be very challenging in her rural Tassilima, where so many families live in poverty. In Aissato’s community, children often have to help their parents and work in the farm, forcing them to drop out of school. In Tassilima, being a girl is also not valued. Girls are often being told that all they need to learn is how to take care of their home and hoe perfectly. However, Aissato Balde, her eyes full of hope, is not worried about her future. She is determined to push through obstacles to achieve her dream. She has long understood the power of education.
“I am used to walk over 24 km every day to go to school. I know that my success depends on my education”, says 18-year-old Aissato Baldé, with a shy smile.
In 2018, Aissato actively participated in the Children’s Rights and Basic Journalism Techniques training, an intervention supported by UNICEF in the context of the Adolescents Girls Education Empowerment and Participation Project. At the training, Aissato had the opportunity to gain knowledge on human rights and develop great communication and animation skills.
“That is the only way for me to help my community”, Aissato Balde indicates.
Like Aissato, many other young girls were enrolled in the UNICEF-supported project. In addition, to learning new skills, the project also includes peacebuilding activities as well as sessions to foster leadership, civic engagement and volunteerism in the community. Hence, when COVID-19 hit her country, Aissato put her leadership skills to good use. She teamed up with her friends to implement a successful COVID-19 awareness raising campaign in her community. The girls gathered information on COVID-19 preventive measures and started a series of daily visits to their community to engage in conversation with community members and raise their awareness on the main preventive measures for COVID-19.
The girls’ actions have been praised by community members and local authorities alike who were impressed by their capacity to implement such an ambitious plan without any support and assistance.
Aissato started participating in the peacebuilding activities when she was 15 years old. “Among the 40 teenagers who were part of the project at that time, Aissato proved to be the most dynamic and enthusiastic participant” says Vagner Cabo supervisor from the NGO National Action for Community Development (ANADEC), of Gabu Region. “She stood out for her engagement, active participation and collaboration with the community. So far, she has contributed to all the activities of the project and is considered a reference for her peers within her community”, he adds.
Aissato’s hard work and devotion to her community is being commended by many in Tassilima. “I am happy to collaborate with teenagers like Aissato, as they are the future of our community. We are aware that today they are just children, but tomorrow they will assume leadership roles”, notes Sadjo Djabula, Vice-Director of Tassilima basic school. “The sooner they learn what their rights are, what their duties are, the sooner they will be prepared to lead our community”, he indicates.
Candima Djalo, the village chief thinks that Aissato’s actions is helping to make the community a better one; a place where young girls like her can find a purpose to life. “This brings more confidence to the community’s elders who strongly believe their teenagers have started navigating adolescence with more maturity”, he mentions.
Both Cnadima Djalo and Sadjo Djabula recognize that in the past girls from their community used to become pregnant or get married at a very early age. But, nowadays, thanks to what they have been learning, through UNICEF projects, the community leaders have witnessed a considerable drop in the number of early pregnancies in their community. “This makes us happy, because now, young girls can pursue and conclude their studies”, Tassimila’s village chief says.
Since 2018, UNICEF has been implementing community-based peacebuilding activities. The Adolescent Girls’ Education, Empowerment and Participation Project is funded by UNICEF National Committee of France.