Promoting Health and Positive Practices

What’s at Stake

Harmful practices and lack of awareness about hygiene put communities’ health at risk, particularly for women and girls.

The health of children and adults is at risk in communities because of limited access to health resources and care, low vaccination rates, and lack of awareness about hygiene and disease prevention.

In many of the communities where Tostan works, child/forced marriage and female genital cutting are also common practices which carry physical and emotional risk for girls and women. A girl who is not cut can be ostracized from her community and will not be able to marry. These practices greatly increase health risks during pregnancy and childbirth but communities often don’t associate these practices with harmful health consequences.

What We’re Doing

Our partner communities make health, hygiene, and disease prevention a priority in their communities.

During our Community Empowerment Program, participants learn about their right to health and their right to be free from all forms of violence, about hygiene, and how diseases are spread and prevented. They also discuss the health risks of harmful practices such as female genital cutting and child/forced marriage.

Our program encourages community members to share the knowledge they gain about health and human rights with their social networks. Communities often launch specific initiatives to improve child and maternal health in their villages. They raise awareness on the importance of vaccinations as well as take action to improve community hygiene and prevent diseases such as malaria.

Community Success

Thousands of communities are declaring abandonment of traditional practices that are harmful to good health.

Over 8,000 communities across eight African countries have publicly declared their abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage following their direct or indirect engagement in our Community Empowerment Program.

Since 2005, as awareness has grown and a critical mass has been building, thousands of villages have joined the movement for the abandonment of FGC in Senegal. We believe we will see a national-level public declaration within the next few years.

Community-led efforts in the area of maternal and child health have led to a rise in vaccination rates, an increase in attendance at prenatal and postnatal consultations, and a decline in children suffering from malnutrition.

Key Metrics

people live in communities that publicly declared an end to female genital cutting

prenatal visits conducted by CMCs in Mauritania in 2013

children in Guinea vaccinated in three days in October 2013

prenatal visits conducted by CMCs in Senegal in 2013

Programs & Issues

Related Programs

Community Development Grants are small grants provided to Community Management Committees (CMCs) to help fund community development projects as well as to establish CMC-run microcredit funds…


The Prison Project aims to help detainees reintegrate back into their communities through participation in a modified version of the Community Empowerment Program…

Related Key Issues

Empowerment of Women and Girls

Women and girls make up half the world’s population. Yet, they often have less access to education, health, and income as well as less opportunity to voice their opinions…


Child Protection

In the countries where we work, there are many threats to a child’s healthy development. Lack of access to education, child trafficking, child labor, child/forced marriage…


Female Genital Cutting

The practice of female genital cutting (FGC) has impacted an estimated 140 million girls and women worldwide and it continues to affect at least three million girls annually…