Our three-year nonformal education program puts rural communities in charge of their own futures.
Vision: Dignity for All
Mission: We empower African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights. We believe that through this mission we can ensure every person—woman, man, girl, and boy—is able to live a life of dignity.
How It All Started
Our origins date back to 1974 when Molly Melching first arrived in Senegal as an exchange student from the United States.
After completing her studies, Molly stayed to work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Dakar, creating the first radio program for children in national languages. Her work soon took her to rural villages, where she found that many development efforts were not addressing the true needs and realities of the communities in ways that were relevant to their lives.
Relying heavily on community feedback, Molly and a team of Senegalese cultural specialists developed a new type of development program, the Community Empowerment Program (CEP). This program respectfully engaged communities by working in their own languages and using traditional methods of learning. It facilitated community ownership over the development process, allowing communities to fulfill their own potential.
Their efforts grew throughout the 1980s, leading Molly to found Tostan—which means ‘breakthrough’ in the Wolof language—in 1991. Over the past 24 years, Molly’s original concepts have developed into a leading model for community-led change -- a model that is now implemented in 22 languages across six African countries and is supported at the international, national, and grassroots levels.
“Tostan’s approach succeeds because of its deep respect for the people it serves.”
Then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton