Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You should shave your head (it's covered with hair)

Today, the post we share with you is not a celebratory one. It is not the story of a community's declaration to protect human rights; in fact, it is just the opposite. It is with an equal measure of sadness and resolve to continue our work for human dignity for all that I share Seydou Niang's account. Seydou is a dedicated Tostan team member who has served the organization for the past seven years. While traveling by bus from Paris to London to see his wife, Sarah, Seydou was arrested, thrown in prison, and humiliated, all because the police said he did not look like the man pictured in his passport. "Your head is covered with hair. You should shave your head," they told him when he was finally released.

We have circulated Seydou's story, originally written in French, to our colleagues and partners worldwide. When overwhelming messages of support started arriving to our inboxes and voicemails, we decided that we needed to share Seydou's account in English as well. For me, it perfectly underscores why human rights education is essential in the 21st century, both in Africa and around the world. I think you will agree.

Molly Melching
Executive Director, Tostan

Seydou Niang, Consultant for
Tostan France on the
Jokkondiral Diaspora project

I would like to share a story of injustice with you. I want to share my anger and pain, but I also want to tell this story to show that these things still happen today. I have read stories like this in books and newspapers, but last month I actually went through such an experience myself.

Thursday to Friday night, June 24-25th, Calais, France

I was looking forward to seeing my wife, Sarah, who is eight months pregnant, at our house in London. I got on the Eurolines night-bus in Paris full of joy that we would soon be together again. We got to the French border in Calais at one o’clock in the morning. I was expecting routine questions about my comings and goings between the UK and France, but I was far from imagining what was about to happen to me…

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Moment of My Inspiration: Molly Melching’s Story

The following is an excerpt from a great article posted on the website Take Part, Inspiration to Action. It is one in a series highlighting international change-makers and the moments in which they dedicated their lives to making a difference.

In the fall of 1974, Molly Melching, all of 24 years old, landed in Dakar, Senegal. It was her first trip to the continent, a six-month stint to be spent studying African literature. She had one bag.
And no ride.
Melching had missed a telegram from Dakar, which arrived at her Illinois home just after she had left for the airport. The program had been cancelled, it read. She shouldn't come. As she sat on the steps outside the airport wondering why nobody was there to greet her, Molly Melching had none of the feelings you might expect of a young, stranded traveler. She wasn't nervous. She wasn't worried.

"I can't explain the feeling," she says now, searching for the words. "It sounds weird, but I felt like I'd come home."So Melching stuck around. It wouldn't be the last time she trusted her instincts.

Thirty-six years later, Melching is the founder and executive director of Tostan, a Senegalese NGO that has impacted millions of lives across West Africa.
- From Take Part, Inspiration to Action  
Read more about Tostan on Take Part's website and how the Community Empowerment Program came to be.

Blog adapted by Salim Drame