Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jokko Initiative Project Manager Blogs on Social Change and Mobile Technology

Jokko Initiative Project Manager Blogs on Social Change and Mobile Technology

The Jokko Initiative is a collaborative effort between Tostan, UNICEF, and many African communities to empower participants through mobile technology education. Guillaume Debar, the Jokko Initiative project manager, blogs about mobile technology and social change. SMS text messaging offers an innovative way for NGOs to address a common problem – maintenance of literacy skills post-program participation – because it serves as a practical, desirable application of participants’ skills. In other words, SMS text messaging is an inexpensive way for villagers to communicate with family and friends about news and community events, allowing for both the use newfound literary skills and an effective way of organizing community events: an essential part of long-lasting social change. Click here to read more from Guillaume Debar.

Communities in BRAKNA Join the Momentum for FGC Abandonment in Mauritania

Mauritania Celebrates the Abandonment of FGC and Child/Forced Marriage Abandonment

MBAGNE, Region of Brakna, Mauritania, 25 May 2010—For the first time in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, a celebration to abandon the harmful tradition practices of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage was organized by 78 communities in the Region of Brakna.

Held in the town of Mbagne, representatives from the Hassanya and Pulaar ethic groups came together on Tuesday, May 25, to announce their commitment to promote and protect the human rights and health of girls and women. Setting the stage for further FGC abandonment in Mauritania, the communities opened a promising new chapter for women and girls in the region.

More than 7,000 people gathered at the public square in Mbagne for the day-long celebration. Communities traveled from throughout the region to participate in this historic event in the presence of important government officials such as the Minister of Social Affairs, the Child and the Family, UNICEF representatives and several other non-governmental organizations.

TOSTAN-UNICEF: A Strengthened Partnership

Keur Simbara hosts the Executive Director of UNICEF New York

On Wednesday, May 19, 2010, Mr. Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF, visited the village of Keur Simbara in western Senegal. The community, which participated in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), is known in Senegal as one of the first communities to have abandoned the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in 1998. UNICEF having supported the implementation of the Tostan program in Keur Simbara, it was fitting for Mr. Lake to visit the community on his first trip to Senegal as Executive Director of UNICEF. Keur Simbara welcomed its guest of honor with singing and dancing, and various presentations held during the visit emphasized the importance of human rights education in national languages and the sharing of information.

Click here to read more about Mr. Lake’s visit to Keur Simbara.
Click here to read UNICEF's article about Mr. Lake's visit to Keur Simbara.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Meet Dawda Sowe and Ramatullahi Bah: a Tostan Community Empowerment Program Participant and Facilitator in The Gambia

A glimpse into the Community Empowerment Program (CEP), Tostan’s 30-month, holistic education program, implemented in local languages and which covers the topics of democracy, human rights, health and hygiene, problem solving, literacy, and numeracy.
Dawda Sowe is a 12 year-old CEP class participant in the Fula community of Sare Jallow. Having heard about the Tostan adolescent classes from his Mandinka friends in 2007, Dawda has looked forward to attending them ever since. He is most excited about learning the Fula alphabet, as he has only been taught the English alphabet in school. His entire family currently attends the CEP sessions, and Dawda himself participates in classes after finishing his regular school day. Dawda adopted his 12 year old friend Fatoumata to teach her about democracy and problem-solving.

Ramatullahi Bah is a facilitator in the Fula community of Sare Jallow. She likes working with Tostan because she believes the CEP brings positive changes to rural communities. Since she began working as a facilitator in 2008, Ramatullahi has seen new behavior and traditions come into existence in Sare Jallow. For instance, the village now carries out regular cleaning exercises, and the Community Management Committee (CMC) coordinates hospital visits for children under the age of five and for pregnant women so that they have access to essential vitamins. The CEP class of 72 participants is increasing as it continues to be joined by new participants who are hungry to learn.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Communities in Vélingara Commit to Using Mosquito Nets Year-Round

On May 22, community representatives and religious leaders, amongst many others, will gather in Pakour, Senegal, to publicly declare the communities’ commitment to use mosquito nets in every household in order to prevent malaria. This decision follows the communities’ participation in awareness activities and education programs on health promotion and malaria prevention, organized by Tostan in partnership with Malaria No More, Peace Corps, World Vision, and the Government of Senegal. The aim of the partnership is to provide bed nets for every household in the district of Vélingara and to ensure they are used effectively for a sustained period of time.

Stay tuned for further news of the declaration, as Tostan staff will travel to attend the declaration. 

Click here to read more about the joint effort of Tostan, Malaria No More, Peace Corps Senegal, and the Government of Senegal to distribute bed-nets in Senegal.

Photo courtesy of ©MHallahan/Sumitomo Chemical-Olyset Net®

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Senegal: Keeping Girls’ Education in the Spotlight

This week, the bustling Senegalese city of Dakar has become the epicenter for discussion on gender equality in education as great minds gather to keep the issue of girls’ education in the spotlight. Over 200 international experts – including Tostan’s Executive Director, Molly Melching – have gathered for a conference from May 17-20, marking the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). UNGEI was launched by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000. Organized in partnership with the Government of Senegal, the “Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality,” or more simply, the E4 discussions, were opened by His Excellency Mr. Souleymane Ndene Ndiaye, Prime Minister of Senegal.

Bringing human rights based education to villages in Senegal as well as across Africa, Tostan believes in the empowering effects of education for girls and for all children.

Please visit for additional stories about how education can truly empower communities. Read more about the conference here and stay tuned for more developments as Dakar increasingly becomes an international hub for the promotion of human rights.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Construye Mundo of Spain to Support Villages in Senegal

Story by Michelle Rintelman, Tostan Volunteer in Fouta, Senegal

May 7, 2010- This week, Tostan Fouta welcomed Iciar Gonzales, representative of the international NGO Construye Mundo, from Madrid, Spain. During her visit, Iciar met villagers from the community of Rowmde Diambe and was able to finalize plans to finance a number of income-generating activities. These activities will be tailored specifically to meet the needs of five communities which recently completed Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP). The Community Management Committees (CMCs) – teams of 17 elected community members who are responsible for community projects during and after the CEP – in each of the five villages are well-equipped to responsibly manage the projects.
The community-led ventures that will be supported by our friends at Construye Mundo include: raising goats in the village of Rowmde Diambe, fabric dyeing in Golere, small enterprise in Thilouky, horticulture and seed banks in Galoye, and a rice storage and distribution cooperative in Ngouyé.

Tostan looks forward to embarking on a successful partnership with Construye Mundo.

Photos by Michelle Rintelman
Top photos: Iciar Gonzalez, representing Construye Mundo talks with community members of Rowmde Diambe and Tostan representatives.
Bottom photo: Animal Husbandry in the village of Rowmde Diambe

Monday, May 17, 2010

Molly Melching Talks Tostan with Katherine Schwarzenegger

In preparation for ‘The Women’s Conference’ this fall, Melching and Schwarzenegger discuss women’s empowerment in Senegal

Though fall seems far away, preparations are already underway for the two-day Women’s Conference which will be held in sunny Long Beach, California, October 26-27. The conference, gathering more than 100 internationally-acclaimed visionaries and over 25,000 women from all walks of life, will serve as a place to discuss, educate, and inspire women and create Architects of Change, women who recognize problems and seek solutions in their homes, in their communities, and in the world.

Molly Melching, who accepted an invitation to speak at the two day event hosted by the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver, took a moment to sit down with Katherine Schwarzennegger and share her story, along with that of a Senegalese mother who lost two daughters to the traditional practice of female genital cutting (FGC).

Established ‘Architects of Change,’ Melching and the NGO Tostan help empower women in Senegal and across Africa to stand up in defense of their daughters and in defense of the human right to health. The following blog post is one in a series from The Women’s Conference, celebrating Mother’s Day.

Read Katherine Schwarzenegger’s full blog post and check out more information on The Women’s Conference, which hosts events year-round.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Dakar Declaration for a United Nations Ban on FGC

The Inter-parliamentary Conference on Female Genital Cutting (FGC) took place in Dakar, Senegal on May 3-4. The gathering of African and international leaders presented an opportunity to reflect upon past legal successes in protecting human rights in Africa and served as a platform from which to draft a resolution encouraging the total abandonment of FGC on the African continent. A step forward in a global effort to abandon the harmful traditional practice, the final declaration calls for the adoption of a UN resolution banning FGC within a year.

More information on the conference and the resolution can be found here on the website of No Peace Without Justice, one of the sponsors of the conference.

Read the full text of the Dakar Declaration for a United Nations Ban on Female Genital Cutting here.

Photo by Cemre Yesil: Women stand up for their "Rights to life and to health"

Friday, May 7, 2010

Meet Suleman Kebbeh and Maimuna Baldeh: Tostan Community Empowerment Program Participants in The Gambia.

A glimpse into the Community Empowerment Program (CEP), Tostan’s 30-month, holistic education program, implemented in local languages and which covers the topics of democracy, human rights, health and hygiene, problem solving, literacy, and numeracy.

Suleman Kebbeh, a 60-year old Community Empowerment Program class participant, loves taking part in the classes in the Fula community of Samba Tako and rarely misses a lesson. Having learned about human rights, democracy, and problem-solving, Suleman understands the value of open discussion and always invites all of his family members to contribute their opinions when making decisions. Suleman shares the knowledge he has gained about health and democracy, among other subjects, with his friend, Lamin.

Eager to learn, Maimuna Baldeh walks for 30 minutes from her community of Gurobba to attend lessons in the neighboring Fula community Samba Tako where the CEP classes take place. Maimuna has participated in these classes since they began and is very satisfied with what she has learned. Now she appreciates the importance of seeking medical care when she is sick and advises her family and neighbors to do the same. Having adopted a friend from her community, Maimuna passes on to her the information Maimuna learns in class.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Get Involved!

Looking for ways to get involved with Tostan? Get Involved through our Africa Volunteer Program!! The next start date is in September 2010. But hurry up! Applications for the Africa Volunteer Program are due June 1, 2010.

Current Urgent Vacancies:

Location: Conakry, Guinée Conakry
Minimum commitment: one year

Location: Dakar or Thies, Senegal
Minimum commitment: three months, six months preferred

If you know someone who would be interested in these two or other volunteer opportunities with Tostan, please direct them to our website. For more information on the Africa Volunteer Program, start periods, other positions, application process, and deadlines, please visit our Africa Volunteer Program and Current Opening pages.

The Tambadjiro Association and Social Mobilization

Story by Rebecca Tapscott, Tostan Volunteer in Senegal

Social mobilization, spreading awareness of important issues through social networks, is exemplified in the activities of the Tambadjiro Association which met in April in Yeumbeul, an area just outside of Dakar. The group, supported by Tostan, holds meetings at ten different locations in the Dakar area and reinforces the lessons learned during Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) through discussion, skits, and video screenings of “Walking the Path of Unity”, a film about FGC abandonment directed by the Senegalese community of Diégoune in partnership with Tostan and the NGO Respect.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tostan Celebrates Mother's Day!

What is a better occasion than Mother’s Day to celebrate and recognize mothers, women, and any special person in our lives? Every year, Tostan honors African women and their communities by bringing the gifts of education and empowerment through its Community Empowerment Program. And every year these dynamic women prove successful at leading their own development, as they run projects, set up income-generating businesses, and lead movements for positive change.
Learn more about the incredible work some of these women are accomplishing through Tostan's Solar Power! Project thanks to generous support from donors to last year's Mother’s Day campaign!

Blog adapted by Salim Drame