In December of 2016, something incredible happened in West Africa. Something Tostan founder Molly Melching could’ve only dreamed of when she arrived in Senegal over 40 years ago as a young exchange student from Danville, Illinois.

Over 300 communities in four different countries came together to publicly declare a commitment to human rights.

They announced their abandonment of harmful traditions, including the long-standing practice of female genital cutting (FGC) as well as child/forced marriage. This brings the total number of communities who have made similar public declarations to over 8,000; evidence of a movement that has been quietly building in the region over the past two decades, due to community resilience and the efforts of Tostan.

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Children hold up chalkboard signs declaring their community’s abandonment of FGC. Source: Tostan

Tostan is a non-profit named for the Wolof word for ‘breakthrough,’

And its unique model focuses on agency, not aid. Operating in six countries, Tostan offers an educational program which has proven that the greatest resources available to struggling communities are the people themselves and their own creative solutions.

In the Tostan program, participants first identify their vision and goals, then they acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to lead and sustain their own development. The Community Empowerment Program uses cultural methods of learning to cover not only the fundamentals of human rights and collective decision-making, but also:

  • Reading,
  • Writing,
  • Arithmetics,
  • Health and hygiene,
  • Problem solving,
  • And confidence building,

And this model has been immensely successful.

In the quarter-century since Tostan’s founding, they have witnessed improvement in issue areas including:

  • Women and girl’s empowerment,
  • Peace and security,
  • Education,
  • And more!
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Women participating in a classroom session of Tostan’s program. Source: Tostan

Giving Assistant raises nearly $18,000 for Tostan

Earlier this month, Giving Assistant mailed a check to Tostan for $17,754.58! These funds were raised entirely by Giving Assistant members who have chosen to support the organization through their everyday shopping.

“Supporters of Tostan are part of our global family. Like our communities in West Africa, they form a collective that is joyfully in pursuit of a common goal: dignity for all. We are so thankful that Giving Assistant has joined this family.” – Molly Melching, CEO of Tostan

This generosity will stretch not only across the globe, but for generations to come as rural West African communities continue on their positive path.

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Women celebrating. Source: Tostan

Help support this rising movement

Due to its proven success, the Tostan program is in high demand. You can help them meet this demand by using Giving Assistant to easily donate a portion or all of your cash back to the organization.

It’s simple! Just make sure to select Tostan in your account settings and decide how much of your cash back you’d like to donate.

Not a member yet? Sign up here to begin supporting Tostan as you shop (and save!) online.