Tostan marks two decades of growth, sets vision for future
DAKAR, Senegal – On February 7, 2011, Tostan, a US based NGO working in eight countries throughout Africa, celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Tostan’s groundbreaking Community Empowerment Program (CEP), which began in a few rural villages in Senegal, has spread to thousands of communities across the continent. The CEP incorporates democracy, human rights, health, hygiene, numeracy, literacy, leadership, and small-business management, with all classes taught in local languages. The CEP facilitates community participation and goal-setting during the program, allowing local needs and priorities, rather than outside agendas, to define progress and increase sustainability.
Tostan’s cross-cutting approach has led to results in many areas. Tostan is perhaps best-known for the large-scale abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage that often takes place during the Tostan program. To date, 5,221 communities in six countries have publicly declared their abandonment of these practices, and evaluations have shown that abandonment to be real.
The CEP has also led to community transformations in health, democratic participation, literacy, conflict resolution, women’s empowerment, and many other areas. Recent large-scale projects at the grassroots level to address human trafficking, education, girls’ empowerment, and peace and security underscore the long-term potential of the CEP in a wide range of areas.
Tostan’s achievements have been widely acknowledged. Most recently, Tostan and Executive Director Molly Melching were awarded the 2010 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and the government of Senegal announced its decision to incorporate key components of the Tostan approach into their National Action Plan for FGC Abandonment 2010-2015 .
Molly Melching notes that the organization is looking towards the future. “In our program, communities start with a vision and work towards that common goal. Similarly, Tostan intends to celebrate its 20 years by staying focused on our shared vision of human dignity for all.
“We are thrilled that we have been able to grow and expand over the years, allowing us to reach more and more communities,” Melching explains. “It has truly been a collaborative effort—our classroom facilitators, our supervisors, our staff and volunteers, our supporters and champions worldwide—have all come together to make Tostan what it is today.”
Throughout the year, the organization will be celebrating with a program of events both at the grassroots level as well as with supporters worldwide.