The story of Mamina
My name is Mamina Jallow, a Migrants as Messenger (MaM) volunteer involved in the Impact Evaluation (IE) activities in Basse, Upper River Region, in the east of The Gambia. I decided to take part in this initiative because I wanted to know the level of understanding of the various communities of the Upper River Region on irregular migration and their perception towards migration. I took part in different activities such as piloting a project on school gamification and two community bantabas. My expectations before participating in these activities were to acquire more knowledge on how people view irregular migration. I hope to learn more about migration can impact a society and to be able to share my story. My goal is to tell my peers that everyone has the right to migrate and that every life experience has contributed to the person I am today, which is someone who wants to succeed in his country.
Bantaba is a place around a big tree where elderly people of a community always meet and discuss issues concerning their community and other relevant issues. The bantabas are very important in the culture of Gambian society and if you want to know the history of the village and the community, I can describe a bantaba as the age of the community or village. We are using community bantabas as a base and as entry points to reach out to young adults to sensitize them about irregular migration and the local opportunities available in The Gambia.
Testimonies of the returnees, a drama and a film screening were used to deliver very important and educative messages to communities on irregular migration and the local opportunities available in The Gambia. My presence in these activities is very useful because I was confident to share my first-hand experience on the dangers of the backway journey and on the motivation to reintegrate into society. I faced stigma and discrimination in the community upon return because if you come back without money or without having reached Europe you family or neighbors will always see you as a failure and there will be no hope for you. To deal with stigma, I believe that in life whatever you should get is already written by Allah before you were born. If you understand the purpose of life and why you are here rich or poor one day you will be forgot, so there is no need to worry much be confident and work hard.
I have also provided information about the local opportunities that young people can tap in to within the Gambia; as well as explaining them the ECOWAS protocol and how to travel within the region without a visa. The participants of the IE activities and bantabas learned many things, through our testimonies as returnees and the courage we had to reintegrate into the society.
It could be useful for future bantabas to include more youth dialogues and invite law makers like ward councilors or alkalos, youth leaders, members of parliament. The biggest lesson learned is that we could try to tap into our local opportunities and helping some of our youth to make it in The Gambia; as well as promote free movement of person's and services.