UNESCO World Heritage Senegambian Stone Circles: Promotion of Women and Young People
Empowering women and the youth was at the heart of the #SOSAfricanHeritage project of the Arts and Culture Centre in Gambia. Through handicraft and history lessons, their entrepreneurial skills and perspectives in the World Heritage Site were improved.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
The site consists of four large groups of stone circles representing an extraordinary concentration of over 1.000 monuments along a section of the Gambia River. The four groups, Sine Ngayène, Wanar, Wassu, and Kerbatch comprise 93 stone circles and numerous tumuli and burial mounds, some of which have been excavated. Materials from the 3rd century BC and 16th century AD have been found here. Together, the stone circles of laterite columns and the associated tumuli form an extensive sacred landscape that has been formed over more than 1.500 years. It reflects a prosperous, highly organised, and durable society.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
The communities living at this World Heritage Site in the Niumi district are already at risk of poverty, which in the past has forced many young people to leave their homes. Tourism is one of the main sources of income for young people and women in this community. The outbreak of COVID-19, the state protection measures, and the resulting decline in revenue since March 2020 mean that these communities are now even more severely affected. This has also led to a 95 percent drop in income and created a great deal of pressure on young people and women to move to the cities or leave the country.
Remedy through history lessons and handicrafts
Through the project funded by the German Commission for UNESCO, 50 young people living in the communities of Juffureh were trained to earn their living by using the World Heritage site as a reference point. Half of the youth were trained as tourism guides by local experts. The focus of the training was to counter historical revisionism, myths and misinterpretations of history.
The Arts and Culture Centre also trained 25 women in handicraft techniques so that they are now able to produce cotton fabric prints which they can sell to tourists once the COVID-19 pandemic is overcome. Among the participants were several "returnees", i.e. migrants who had not been accepted as immigrants in Europe. The project met with great approval from the participants who now see new perspectives for their future.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the Covid-19-Pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Senegambian Stone Circles
- Country: Gambia
- Type of Site: UNESCO World Heritage (cultural heritage)
- Year of inscription: 2006