Tostan International is an organization aims to empower and break through. Kate Caroline introduces us to their inspiring work, and to Molly Melching, the woman behind the organization.
When American Molly Melching visited Senegal, first as an exchange student in 1974, and then as a Peace Corps volunteer, she felt that not enough development work was being done.
She wanted to work to change this, and so founded an NGO based in Senegal, whose main focus is to educate and empower people through a variety of grassroots development projects.
They have hundreds of employees and volunteers from all over the world that make the organization possible.
The beginning of Tostan International
Tostan International was officially founded in 1991 thanks to the research and work by Molly and Senegalese cultural specialists with whom she worked to develop the organization on always focus on the true needs of the people.
Molly still lives in Senegal, working with Tostan and helping its mission to grow and spread.
A community-based work
Tostan is a great organization because from its inception, it has been led by people who understand the culture and respectfully worked with communities, relying on their feedback, in order to help develop the country.
This need to be culturally sensitive is so important for any NGO or foreign organization to keep in mind when trying to “help” any group of people. In fact, 99% of Tostan’s paid workers are African.
The word Tostan means “breakthrough” in Wolof, the language principally spoken in Senegal.
Tostan has expanded to work in seven other African countries besides Senegal. They have a variety of projects that are often community-led to make sustainable changes in these eight countries.
Tostan’s main program is called the Community Empowerment Program, or CEP, and it is a 30-month informal education program that gives people practical information about topics such as health and management, and trains people how to design and implement projects in their communities.
A powerful organization
Tostan International has won various awards and was also featured in Nicholas Kristof’s Half the Sky.
Forbes Magazine recognized Molly Melching as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Human Rights,” and she has been acknowledged by many other publications and organizations for her work.
Molly has said about Tostan, “We have learned many things through our 20 years at Tostan, but none as important as how human rights in a non-formal education program can empower people to positively transform their communities and their lives.
Instilling democracy and human rights in the learning process, particularly around women’s health, is exceptionally significant.”
You can learn more about Tostan International and how you can get involved at www.tostan.org.
Do you know of another organisation doing wonderful work transforming communities around the world? Let us know in the comments below?