Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Molly Melching at Dialogue for Action in New York CIty

Story by Tostan International, Dakar, Senegal 

On Thursday, June 24, Molly Melching was a panelist on the Africa Round Table at the "Dialogue for Action" Conference held in New York City. The conference, hosted by the Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women, is an annual international forum as well as a platform for action-driven discussions focused on helping women around the world. The event brought together NGO leaders, scholars, and experts in the private and public sectors. The Foundation has posted a video of highlights from last week’s discussions; click to see Molly Melching and other leaders championing women’s issues at the conference.

Tostan Celebrates the Start of the Community Empowerment Program with Village Visits in the region of Kidira, Senegal

Story by Aude Mulliez, Tostan Volunteer in Tamba, Senegal

Last month, Thierno Diallo, Tostan Tambacounda’s Regional Coordinator, and Aude Muillez, the Regional Volunteer based in the region of Tambacounda, Senegal, visited five villages in southern Senegal. During their visits, they learned about the social, economic, and cultural challenges facing each community as participants begin Tostan’s holistic, 30-month Community Empowerment Program (CEP). Joined by other Tostan staff working in the area--supervisors Kali Kante and Dianguina Sylla--the group spoke with CEP participants who will be learning about topics such as human rights, health and hygiene, literacy, and problem solving. 

The following pictures were taken throughout their visit and offer a glimpse into just a few of the villages participating in Tostan's program.

Fanera: In Fanera, Tostan was welcomed with the warmth of Senegalese Teranga- hospitality and generosity so strong that even a stranger feels that they are amongst family.  

Gathiari: Tostan has implemented the CEP in 50 new villages in the region of Kidira. These villages are grouped by 10 and for every ten villages, one serves as a base for community meetings.The village of Gathiari, where Tostan and community groups held a meeting to exchange ideas on community development, is a base for 10 Soninke villages. Gathiari, which has a health post and a school, boasts 72 CEP participants: 41 adults and 31 adolescents.

 Boundou Dioye:  478 people live in Boundou Dioye: 158 women, 93 men, and 227 children. There are 65 CEP participants, the majority of whom are women. They begin the program by learning about human rights, democracy, problem solving, and health and hygiene. 
Photos by Aude Mulliez

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tostan Welcomes June Volunteers!

Malick Niang (left), Assistant to the Program Department at Tostan, Senegal, and Zoe Williams (standing, left), Tostan’s Volunteer Coordinator with the new volunteers in Thiès.  
After an orientation in the city of Thiès, Senegal, involving language lessons and courses on Senegalese culture, Tostan’s new volunteers are heading out to their respective coordinations in the areas of Mbour, Fouta, Thiès, and Dakar, Senegal as well as Kololi, in The Gambia. At Tostan, culture is key, so incoming-volunteers quickly become well-versed in Senegalese greetings, dress, and cuisine while learning deeper lessons about Senegalese life from dedicated Regional Coordinators and Tostan staff. Hailing from all over the United States, this group of volunteers boasts a variety of backgrounds but it is the enthusiasm for grassroots, sustainable development that brings them together at Tostan. Welcome!

To learn more about our volunteer program, visit our website.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Representatives from Tostan’s DC Office Attend Two Events on Creating Sustainable Social Change

Story by Tostan, Washington D.C.

This week, representatives from Tostan’s DC office attended two events. The first event was Media as a Tool for Social Change in Africa, which featured the PBS special "Soap Opera for Social Change." This video explores the role of television in unifying the Kenyan people and encouraging more amicable relations between Kenyan tribes. John Marks, President and founder of Search for Common Ground, spoke about how addressing tribal conflicts in the context of a soccer or ‘futbol’ team facilitates productive discussion and conversation as alternatives to violence. 

In addition, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) hosted Insight to Change, Promoting Gender Equitable Attitudes Among Men and Boys.  This event focused on the importance of male mentors in shaping boys’ conceptions of manhood and developing respectful attitudes towards others.

Both events provided thought-provoking approaches to social change, offering useful feedback about the power of media and sports to influence diverse aspects of participants’ and viewers’ lives.  We appreciate the chance to learn from other organizations and look forward to the opportunity to take part in more lectures and conferences.  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Communities in the Region of Tambacounda, Senegal Meet as the Community Empowerment Program Begins.

Story by Aude Mulliez, Tostan Volunteer in Tamba, Senegal

In the village of Gabou, Senegal I accompanied Tostan’s Regional Coordinator of the Tambacounda region, Thierno Diallo, to a community meeting. The day before the meeting, lying beneath a tree, I attempted to find refuge from the heat. My new taille basse, a traditional Senegalese ensemble, clung to my skin, soaked in sweat. Tostan facilitators and supervisors, along with the villagers, sat next to me and discussed the symbiotic relationship between trees and humans. 

Tostan began implementing its  Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in 13 villages that neighbor Gabou just two months ago. On this day, however, 114 people, representing 57 villages and the Pulaar, Soninke, and Bambara ethnicities, arrived to participate in the meeting. Present at the meeting were village chiefs, Imams (religious leaders), and villagers. 

The goal of the meeting was to familiarize CEP participants and the communities with the Tostan program, but it also provided an opportunity for individuals from different communities to share experiences, exchange information, and discuss their expectations for the program. Coordinators, supervisors, and facilitators leading the Tostan program had the chance to clarify the goals of the CEP, ensuring the communities felt involved and included in the process.  

Photos by Aude Mulliez: Communities gather in the region of Tambacounda, Senegal.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Women Deliver Conference 2010: Delivering Solutions for Girls and Women

Josephine Ndao, a volunteer in Tostan’s International Program Team, reports from the Women Deliver Conference 2010, in Washington, D.C.  In early 2010, Josephine was selected from a pool of thousands of applications to attend the conference.

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 10 2010 – Over the past three days, I have had the privilege of attending the 2010 Women Deliver Conference in Washington, D.C. alongside political leaders, medical practitioners, members of advocacy groups and youth groups, and representatives from NGOs, international organizations, and donors.

Powerful words on the first day of the conference from Ban Ki-Moon, Melinda Gates, and the former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, set the stage for a truly educational and inspiring conference, which focused on improving reproductive and maternal health around the world. The conference was an opportunity to celebrate the progress that has been made in improving maternal health, but also served as a platform for individuals in the sector of reproductive and maternal health to learn from their peers and to build on the international momentum toward reaching Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 (reducing maternal mortality by 75%).

Testimonials from the likes of Maribel Guitierrez Lopez, a young woman native to Guatemala, reinforced the fact that in order to improve the health of women and girls, diverse fields such as education and community empowerment should be taken into account when setting health policy. Health practitioners and experts from the field insisted that women’s health should be addressed as a lifecycle matter and not as an age specific issue. Healthful living is a lifestyle that starts at a girl’s birth, and which develops during her youth, her child bearing, menopausal, and post-menopausal years. Women should have knowledge about and access to services that allow them to make healthy, hygienic, and safe decisions: from nutrition to assisted child birth.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Francesca Moneti and Caroline Bacquet-Walsh of UNICEF New York Visit Tostan Djibouti

Story by Sydney Skov, Tostan Volunteer in Dakar, Senegal

Tostan currently implements it’s holistic, 30-month, education program, the Community Empowerment Program (CEP), in eight African countries including the Republic of Djibouti, a small country on the eastern coast of the continent. Last month, representatives from the UNICEF headquarters in New York paid a visit to a Tostan center supported by The Joint Programme of UNICEF and UNFPA in Djibouti City, the country’s capital. The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Cutting (FGC) aims to contribute to the accelerated abandonment of FGC in 17 African countries and supports many organizations concerned with the abandonment of such harmful traditional practices, including Tostan. Catch a glimpse of their visit!

Francesca Moneti (center), UNICEF’s Sr. Child Rights Officer, and Caroline Bacquet-Walsh (far right), UNICEF Program Officer in Child Protection, met on May 15, 2010 with Mory Camara (left), National Coordinator for Tostan Djibouti and Fathia Oumar, UNICEF Program Officer for UNICEF in Djibouti. 

In the Tostan center where blackboards still boast the colorful script of past lessons taught in local languages, Moneti talks with CMC members and their children. 

Moneti and Bacquet-Walsh are shown photos of activities led by the Community Management Committee (CMC). The CMC, a group of 17 democratically elected members from the local community, helps to facilitate income generating activities through a microcredit system. They also help to diffuse information to neighboring communities on issues like health, hygiene, literacy, human rights, and problem solving learned through Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program.  

Moneti and Bacquet-Walsh pose with members of the CMC after an engaging visit.

Friday, June 11, 2010

3.3 Billion Ways to Change the World: The G(irls)20 Summit

Story by Sydney Skov, Tostan Volunteer in Dakar, Senegal

The World Cup will have to share the spotlight as the global movement to empower women and girls takes center stage in June. The Women Deliver conference, at which Tostan was present, wrapped up this week in Washington, D.C. and later this month, a new campaign will add even more momentum to the movement. 
A powerful innovation—the coupling of a compelling awareness campaign and ground-breaking summit—is set to give a new voice to the world’s 3.3 billion women and girls in the form of the first ever G(irls)20 Summit.

The global campaign, modeled on the G20 Summit, is currently gathering grassroots ideas on how to reach the MDGs most important to women and girls before the inaugural summit in Toronto on June 16, just ten days before the G20. Hosted by a group of international organizations including Tostan partners from the Nike Foundation and the ONE Campaign, The G(irls)20 Summit will focus on child and maternal health as well as education and economic prosperity of girls and women.  The conference will include one girl as a representative from each G20 member: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, UK, USA and the European Union.

Empowering women and girls isn’t just a hot topic; it’s something that we at Tostan work to help communities to achieve every day, bringing human rights based education to thousands of men and women across Africa. Add your voice to the movement by finding your number on the G(irls)20 website. Help empower women and girls as the world gears up for the inaugural summit and don’t forget to follow events leading up to the Toronto event on the G(irls)20 Twitter and Facebook pages.   

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Representatives from Tostan’s DC Office Attend a Conference on Empowering Adolescent Girls

Story by Kate Acosta, Communications Intern in Washington, DC

On June 3, 2010, Tostan’s Washington, DC, office attended the Interagency Youth Working Group’s conference, “Protecting and Empowering Adolescent Girls: Evidence for the Global Health Initiative.”  The event brought together many NGOs and non-profits to discuss effective program approaches, research results, and to further dialogue concerning women- and girl-centered approaches as a part of global health initiatives.  This day-long event was an informative and thought-provoking conference, and Tostan interns appreciated the opportunity to connect with other organizations that share the same passion for creating sustainable changes for girls and women worldwide.

In addition, this conference provided the opportunity to reflect and critically analyze Tostan’s approach towards development. It is essential to learn from and build off of the strategies and findings of other programs in order to strengthen Tostan’s abilities to meet communities’ needs in innovative ways.  We look forward to continuing this discussion next year and hope that the conference will raise issues regarding other important stages in the lives of girls and women in developing countries.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Solar Power Success Story: Women Bring Light to Villages in Djibouti

Story by Sydney Skov, Tostan Volunteer in Dakar, Senegal

A great change has taken place in the Djiboutian communities of Khor Angar and Assamo thanks to the bravery, determination, and dedication of five outstanding women.

In March 2009, these mothers and grandmothers travelled thousands of miles from Djibouti, East Africa, to spend six months training to become solar power engineers at the Barefoot College in India. Entrepreneur Bunker Roy has been running the college - a non-profit organization pioneering solar electrification in rural villages – for women in India since 1989 and, more recently, in East and West Africa. Since their return in September 2009, the Djiboutian women have applied their training to install and maintain solar panels in their villages, which originally lacked basic infrastructure, bringing electricity to 70 households as well as to local shops and mosques.

The Tostan Solar Power! Project, launched in 2009 in collaboration with the Barefoot College empowers communities to provide sustainable and low-cost electricity for themselves. Tostan, along with Barefoot College, has supported the training of women from three African countries: Senegal, Djibouti, and most recently, Guinea Bissau. Through training at the Barefoot College, the women are taught to install, maintain, and repair solar panels as well as how to train others to do so, strengthening and spreading the impact of the program. Management committees are created in each participating community to organize the collection of funds from each household in exchange for solar power; through these small contributions ownership of the individual solar panels is established allowing the community to take development into their own hands. 

Check out more photos from the Solar Power! project in Djibouti on our Flickr page. 

Photos: A light bulb in the village of Khor Angar lit by solar power. Below: An engineer takes stalk of her equipment including light bulb and battery powered by solar energy.

Making Every Cent Count: Tostan and Freedom from Hunger Find Empowerment in Small Change

Story by Leah Cassidy, Tostan Volunteer in Thiès, Senegal

Recently, Tostan Senegal welcomed representatives from partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the city of Thiès, Senegal for a training session with Freedom from Hunger, an international NGO operating in 17 countries across the globe. Tostan has been working with Freedom from Hunger on their Saving for Change Program – a program created with Oxfam America and the Stromme Foundation of Norway – which allows women to make small deposits and build sums of money. By saving the small amount of 100 francs (around 20 US cents) each week, women are able to distribute small loans of capital to each other and invest in small business ventures.

The Saving for Change program is currently being implemented in 55 communities in 7 regions of Senegal. During the training session, Freedom from Hunger briefed Tostan staff and facilitators on how to instruct communities to incorporate the innovative loan strategy into the activities of Community Management Committees (CMC): groups formed in each Tostan village to support sustainable development through management and micro-loans. 

Photo by Leah Cassidy
: The group enjoys a laugh during a simulation with trainer Aly.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tostan in an LA Times Op-Ed about FGC

Tostan in an LA Times Op-Ed about FGC

Tostan is highlighted in a Los Angeles Times op-ed about female genital cutting (FGC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reversal of its April 26, 2010 policy that suggested American doctors be allowed to perform a “nick” as a symbolic procedure.  The article references the wide-spread movement in West and East Africa in which communities are abandoning FGC in order to protect the human rights of women and girls. To date, over 4,000 communities have publicly abandoned FGC after either completing Tostan Community Empowerment Program or interacting with other communities who have worked directly with Tostan. Also highlighted is Tostan’s belief that respect for human rights and responsibilities leads to many positive outcomes in addition to FGC abandonment: girls’ education and women’s involvement in small businesses and the economy.   To read the full article click here.
Blog adapted by Salim Drame