Sometimes it can really brighten your day to learn about the great work people are undertaking to change the world. We felt this way when we learned about Tostan, an NGO based in Senegal, West Africa. We first heard about this organization when Tostan’s founder Molly Melching spoke at the Women in the World Summit in March, and we were delighted to see her recognized alongside our co-founder Siiri Morley in Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women,
Tostan is dedicated to educating and empowering Africans who have had little or no access to formal schooling. Their education strategy emphasizes existing cultural practices and local knowledge, in the belief that “communities simply need the tools and knowledge that will empower them to work for their own well-being. ” Amen.
Tostan was featured prominently in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn’s Half the Sky, the ground-breaking book discussing women’s oppression around the world and what is and should be done about it. The organization has been widely recognized for its unique approach to addressing female genital cutting in West Africa. Tostan emphasizes a non-judgmental, community driven approach, recognizing that, “harsh judgmental messages or impositions from the outside don’t lead to substantial change and can actually be counterproductive, stimulating resistance and anger.”
Tostan’s model works through social networks to promote consensus so that individual families don’t confront a social stigma and exclusion when deciding to abandon the practice. Tostan’s model is so effective that the Government of Senegal decided to fully integrate their model into its national strategy for the abandonment of female genital cutting.
We love Tostan’s community-knows-best approach, and we’re inspired by their mission and impact. They make protecting women and girls the responsibility of the community at large, and invite people to see how this is in everyone’s best interest. Their work challenges us to think critically about Prosperity Candle‘s relationships with international communities, which is especially relevant as we expand our work to Haiti.
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In the spirit of Women’s History Month, our thoughts are drawn to the many women who contribute to society in a myriad of ways while expecting nothing in return. They are hidden from view. Yet these women are transforming communities and making a positive difference in the world. They are unsung heroines.
March is about celebrating women… something we’re pretty excited about. There is so much to appreciate, so many barriers yet to topple, and so many amazing women to recognize for their accomplishments.
Ah, Valentine’s Day. Every year we look forward to it, but here’s the thing. Ever since Eve Ensler started One Billion Rising as part of her V-Day movement to end violence against women and girls, we’ve felt conflicted about this holiday.