Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

FEATURED ORGANIZATION: THE AGAHOZO-SHALOM YOUTH VILLAGE

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

 


 

 

AGAHOZO-SHALOM

 

DRYING THE TEARS OF TEENS ORPHANED

 BY THE 1994 GENOCIDE IN RWANDA AND ITS AFTERMATH

AND BUILDING THE FUTURE OF A COUNTRY

 


 


 

 


 


We have a village in which teachers have been taught how to teach the kids to think for themselves.  …They will understand how important it is to take care of their community and that life isn’t just about survival.

 

 “If you see far, you will go far”.   These are the first words a visitor sees when entering the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda–words that are particularly meaningful for the 375 (soon to be 500) orphan residents of the Village – all teenagers aged 15-20 who were orphaned or otherwise traumatized by the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and its aftermath. 

 The 144 acre Village sits high on a hill in the eastern province of Kigali and one can indeed see miles into the distance to the lush vistas beyond.

 

 


Student living quarters at Agahozo-Shalom

 

 

The Village

 

This site selection was not serendipitous.  Rather, it was intended by Founder, Anne Heyman, to impart the essential philosophy and message to all who enter:  This is a place where life can begin again, a place of learning, family, and renewal, a place where the possibilities are as expansive as the horizon.  Hence, the name, which could not be more fitting:  Agahozo is a Kinyarwanda word for ‘place where tears are dried’, and Shalom, is the Hebrew word for “peace”, or as Heyman says, “a place to dry one’s tears and live in peace”.

 

THE BEGINNING

 

Founder, Anne Heyman

 

South African native, Anne Heyman, is a former New York District Attorney, now living in Manhattan with her husband, Seth Merrin, and their three children.  Her deep sense of social justice is manifest in her long time support of Jewish and other causes, both personally and through the Heyman-Merrin Family Foundation, which she directs.    Merrin is Founder and CEO of the international brokerage firm, Liquidnet.

For the last six years, Heyman has focused like a laser on building and fundraising for Agahozo-Shalom.   Her passion is palpable as she talks about the project.

It began with an initiative called Moral Voices, which the Heyman-Merrin Family Foundation sponsors with the Tufts University Hillel and the University of Pennsylvania Hillel.   Each year, Moral Voices selects a different social justice topic on which a year-long program, including a lecture series, is based.  In 2005, at Tufts University, the subject was the 1994 genocide in Rwanda (memorialized in the film, Hotel Rwanda)  in which 800,000 people were brutally murdered in a the period of 100 days. 


“THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN RWANDA TODAY…IS THE ORPHANS”

At the pre-lecture dinner, Heyman asked the speaker, “What is the biggest problem facing Rwanda today?”   He replied, ‘It’s the orphans.  There are 1.2  million orphans in Rwanda, and because there is no systemic way to absorb them, there is no future for the country.’ 

The mental light bulb flashed: Heyman immediately thought of the youth villages in Israel, built in kibbutz like settings for the influx of orphans into the country after the Holocaust.   These Youth Villages resolved the orphan problem in Israel; the children were taught to farm, were educated, and were given a home, and were integrated into Israeli society. 

“Why not build a Youth Village “, Heyman thought, “similar to the successful Israeli model, to house these orphaned children, now well into their teens.  Such a village would give them a place a place to feel safe, to become educated, to develop life skills, to become productive citizens.  In addition, it would build capacity and revitalize Rwanda with an inflow of native citizens who would be willing and able to contribute as productive members of society. “ 

 

 “THIS WAS SOMETHING I JUST COULDN’T LET GO”

As Heyman says, this was a simple idea that was a lot more complicated in reality.  In fact, when she first broached the idea, it was met with a thunderous indifference.  But, she says, “the idea kept nagging at me…I just couldn’t let it go”. 

 


The Liquidnet Family School

 

Confident that she was on to something, Heyman swung into action, taking the role of Executive Producer and Director of the venture, even as she faced mega-challenges:  First, she had never done anything like this, on this scale before.  Moreover, she didn’t know anyone in Rwanda, nor did she have any idea whether the Israeli concept could be translated successfully into the Rwandan culture.    

Many an activist would have been discouraged by the odds.  But fueled by her compassion for the orphans though her natural connection to the Holocaust of WWII, and by the knowledge that she could make a real difference in their lives, Heyman called on her contacts and gathered support.    

Her energy and excitement were like a force of nature.  The pieces began to fall into place.

First, she arranged to meet with Dr. Chiam Peri, Founder and then Director of the Yemin Orde Youth Village.   Today, Yemin Orde is a renowned institute that provides intensive educational intervention for Israel’s immigrant populations as well as for at risk youths. 

Peri embraced her vision, shared his model, and recommended Ethiopian-Israeli volunteers – former orphans and graduates of Yemin Orde, now successfully integrated into Israeli society as productive citizens.  She made multiple trips to Rwanda, asking everyone she knew for introductions to Ministers, NGOs and others who would become the essential team members who would “Rwanda-ize” the concept – advisors on education, health, and on the psychological welfare of the orphans.  She found the site that would become the Village and the brilliant Rwandan architect who would build it.  She flew back to Israel and Yemin Orde with the Rwandan who would eventually become the Executive Director of Agzhoso-Shalom. 

The project picked up momentum.  Back home, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), one of the oldest and most venerable Jewish humanitarian organizations, became a crucial partner, providing initial office space, key advising and the not-for-profit umbrella.  With the JDC on board, Heyman and her husband reached out to friends and to the business community and raised $12 million in seed money.    There was no stopping them now.

 

AGAHOZO-SHALOM WILL SOON HOUSE 500 ORPHANED TEENS WHO ARE TAUGHT HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL

Today, Agahozo-Shalom has taken on a life of its own, and is home to more than 375 ( in December,500)  orphaned Rwandan teens, who are finding a new world they had given up long ago.   They are recommended by the mayors in each of the 30 districts in Rwanda, who are asked to identify  ten orphans whom they consider to be the most vulnerable – children who are from abusive homes, who are without any adult supervision or resources, or who are suffering from some other type of trauma. 

 


At the Community Center

 

The Village operates very much like an Israeli kibbutz and the impact is nothing short of miraculous!.  There is a self sustaining farm which provides fruit, vegetables, eggs, peanuts and beans for all the residents, as well as income and a learning opportunity  in methodology and management for the students.   Each group in the village (separated by gender) lives together as a family, headed by a Rwandan “Mom”.   There is a school, with all the latest technology for learning.  The students are given a formal, if not a rigorous academic education, with required courses in science, math, computers, Economics, English, and Kinyarwandan.  There are enrichment programs in music, the arts, and any type of sports activity you can think of.  There are counselors and clinics to provide medical and psychological care, and help with life skills.   There is a church, in which all religions are practiced freely.  “The only rule they must follow, says Heyman, is that they cannot proselytize – they cannot attempt to convert anyone.”

 

 

At the community Center

 

There is also a requirement, deeply integrated into the program, that each child volunteer in some way, to give back to the outside world.  Says Heyman, “a key tenant of the organization is the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam.”   Tikun Olam is the Jewish mandate to give back, and is associated with social action and the pursuit of justice.  In Hebrew, Tikkun Olam means literally, to “repair the world”.

She continues, “All the teachers must go through an intensive training period in which they are taught the importance of Tikkun Olam, and how to infuse the concept into the learning experience.”   

Over the four year period the students learn to take this requirement very seriously and to incorporate it into their lives. The goal is to produce self sufficient, productive and even entrepreneurial citizens, with a clear sense of who they are, and how they can make a positive contribution to Rwandan society and culture.

 

Working with Computers

 

A SYSTEMIC SOLUTION TO THE “ORPHAN PROBLEM”

“The important thing that people need to know about Agahozo-Shalom, says Heymen, is that there is a solution to the orphan problem.   The problems of Africa require systemic change.  You have to introduce new ideas, you have to present alternative ways to view the world, and that is not an easy or a short process. 

“People often question the amount of money it costs to build (and maintain) this village.  We have a village that will be there 60 years from now.   We have a village in which teachers have been taught how to teach the kids to think for themselves.  We will be graduating kids who are entrepreneurial in thinking and ability.  They will understand how important it is to take care of their community and that life isn’t just about survival.  This is a long and expensive process.  We are looking at the systemic solution.”

 

 

 

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

“There are so many ways to get involved,” says Heymen.  “We need worldwide support in order to offer the quality of education and the residential living experience that is now in place.  We’re always looking for people who want to volunteer, help us raise money, to fundraise, to enlarge our community of donors.

“In addition, we have service learning programs for college students – we organize trips for college students and other groups who want to learn more about Agahozo-Shalom.  There is a long-term volunteer program as well.

Be sure to check the website for opportunities and ideas on how to engage with us.

CONTACT:

EMAIL: 
info@asyv.org

PHONE: 
212-863-1412

FAX: 
212-863-1502

MAILING:
The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, 1375 Broadway
17th Fl
New York, NY 10018

Website

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FEATURED ORGANIZATION: MOLLY MELCHING AND TOSTAN

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

 

 


 

MOLLY MELCHING

AND

TOSTAN 

 

AFRICAN COMMUNITIES LEADING MOVEMENTS 

FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

 

 

 

 

 

Female genital cutting (FGC).  Child/forced marriages. These traditional practices began long ago but persist today throughout many African communities as deeply held social norms. FGC is tied directly to marriageability and status—a requisite for social inclusion. Child/forced marriages are a long-standing custom related to the establishment of community and family ties. Both pose significant challenges to community development and the prosperity of African women.

 

Like most norms, these problems often persist through generations, and the complexity and scale of these and other harmful practices—and decades of failed attempts to end them—has caused some to assume that real, lasting change is not simply possible, that some practices never change.

 

Yet this is no longer the case. Thanks to dedicated local leaders and the innovative, community-driven model of an NGO called Tostan, these practices are changing. Through Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), communities are taking the lead in building a better future.

 

TOSTAN MEANS "BREAKTHROUGH" IN THE WEST AFRICAN LANGUAGE OF WOLOF

Tostan is a word in the West African language of Wolof that means “breakthrough,” a fitting name suggested by the late African scholar, Cheikh Anta Diop, a mentor and advisor to Tostan’s founder and Executive Director Molly Melching. Over the last two decades, Tostan has implemented the CEP in nine countries in West and East Africa in over 3,000 communities, leading to transformative, community-led changes in favor of education, economic entrepreneurship, and abandonment of harmful traditional practices.  Today, Tostan continues to “break through” as it works hand in hand with hundreds of villages in eight countries in Africa.  

 

 

Tostan attributes its success to the CEP, a non-formal education program that gives communities the skills they need to bring about positive change the areas of human rights, democracy, health, hygiene, literacy, numeracy, business management, environmental protection, and economic stability.  The CEP is perhaps best known for its ability to create a forum in which community members—especially women—feel comfortable to openly discuss previously taboo subjects and its capacity to connect extended social networks to make large-scale change.

 

 

 

On November 28, 2010, 700 communities in the department of Kolda, Senegal publicly declared their abandonment of harmful practices, including female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage.  At the march held before the ceremony, local girls celebrated their communities’ commitment with dances and songs.   

 

The resulting decision of thousands of communities to abandon harmful traditional practices has been a ground-breaking success. However Tostan is quick to point out that these are far from the only successes communities in the program have created—recently Tostan began demonstration projects to showcase the CEP’s impact in other area including peace and security, education, and child protection. This is in part because regardless of donor interest, Tostan brings the full CEP to every community, and constantly updates program materials to reflect community interests and realities.  

 


Founder Molly Melching first moved to Senegal in 1974 as a University of Illinois exchange student and still lives there to this day, now based in Dakar, Senegal. While she spends much of her time in West Africa, she does travel to share stories of change and Tostan’s approach, and to collaborate with international partners.

 

Recently, Action Now Network talked with Melching about the CEP and its most recent project, the Jokko Initiative, which is helping to empower communities to improve literacy, communication, and economic opportunity through SMS technology.

 

**********

 

THE TOSTAN FUNDAMENTALS: LISTEN, UNDERSTAND, RESPECT AND BUILD CONSENSUS 

When Molly Melching speaks with women and men about their goals and desires, about how their lives could be improved, she asks for their perspective…and then she listens. 

 “You have to respect the local customs and understand the traditional ways of doing things…and then listen to that,” says Melching. “We, at Tostan, have spent a lot of time really deeply listening to people and understanding what the social norms are, and why those social norms are there.    “I learned a lot by living with the community,” says Melching, “early on we learned to respect the cultural traditions that have been practiced for centuries.”


 

Tostan Executive Director Molly Melching with the women of Malicounda Bambara, the first village to publicly declare the abandonment of FGC in 1997 after participating in Tostan's Community Empowerment Program (CEP).  In this photo, taken in 2007, the women celebrate the 10thanniversary of their historic decision and reaffirm their pledge to uphold human rights.


How did Melching get started with these initiatives?   Melching recalls how she was first moved to provide health information to families when she saw children dying of dehydration.

 

“The community didn't know what caused diarrhea and they didn't know what to do. In some cases, they had been told by relatives not to give their children water, that it was bad for the child,” says Melching. “It's not that they wanted any harm to come to their children. They simply weren't offered any other information, and they thought this was the right thing to do.” 

 

THE COMMUNITY HAS TO SET ITS OWN GOALS

Tostan’s success within so many communities and regions has come from the culture Melching has established within Tostan: the belief that an earnest effort to understand the customs and the pressing concerns of each individual village is necessary, and then, ultimately, to enable individuals to choose what they believe is best for their community as a whole.

 

“What I know is that people must have good information in order to make good decisions, but they themselves have to decide on what they want,” says Melching. 

 

UNDERSTANDING THE LANGUAGE IS KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE CULTURE

Melching’s belief that you must first meet people where they are carries over to the languages she speaks. In addition to English and French, Melching is fluent in Wolof, which she says enables her to understand Senegalese's perspectives and goals in a deeper way.

 

“It's important to understand the language and the meanings of the words. Something may mean one thing in [English] and something entirely different in Wolof.  For instance, there is no word in [Wolof] that means privacy. It doesn't exist.  Privacy, in fact, is not desired and people always seek to be with others.… People are oriented towards the group. . It’s very different than in America.”

 

ABANDONMENT OF FGC AND CHILD/FORCED MARRIAGES WAS A NATURAL RESULT OF THE CEP, A PROCESS WHICH CENTERS ON TRUST AND CONSENSUS-BUILDING: 

Melching and Tostan are perhaps best known for working with African communities to abandon the practice of female genital cutting (FGC), which involves the cutting away of part or all of the female genital. It is often performed without anaesthetics by individuals with little or no medical training or knowledge of sterilization techniques. The dangers to an individual’s health from this practice can range from recurrent urinary-tract infections, HIV and AIDS, to death from shock, haemorrhage or septicaemia.

 

FGC as a practice is directly linked to a girl’s marriageability and social acceptance, meaning that no single individual can effectively abandon the practice without being cut off from marriage opportunities and facing severe social backlash and scorn. Uncut girls are often ostracized and lack the economic security that comes with marriage, so even parents who may disagree with the practice are likely to have their daughters cut to protect them from this social exclusion.   

 

Because of these ties to complex social norms, addressing FGC requires a respectful approach that gives communities themselves the ability to change convention.

 

 “I never set out to change FGC,” says Melching.  Instead, when Tostan began to offer information about the impact of FCG on women’s health, CEP participants in the village of Malicounda Bambara decided on their own to declare their abandonment of the practice.  

 

 

Women carry signs reading: “Civic awareness for sustainable action.”  Intervillage meetings and marches are one of the ways that communities taking part in the CEP raise awareness and share what they’ve learned with their social networks in order for sustainable social change to take root. 

 

This organic response sparked the movement to abandon FGC that has spread to communities across Africa – but it did not come without significant challenges.

 

Those first community members who declared their intention to abandon FGC faced ridicule and suspicion from within their own community and throughout their social network, as others felt their cultural identity was being betrayed and threatened. Intermarrying communities had not been included in the process and thus did not support the change.

 

It quickly became apparent that if the effort to abandon the practice was to succeed, it was absolutely imperative that all of the communities within Malicounda Bambara’s social network decide as one, visibly demonstrating a unified decision to change social norms and abandon FGC. Through the tireless efforts of a local religious leader, Demba Diawara, introduced the intramarrying communities to the knowledge that had led Malicounda Bambara to abandon the practice, leading them to eventually join the movement and hold a public declaration.    

 

Rather than imposing outside philosophies or beliefs upon the communities with which Tostan works, Melching has established a culture of respect and understanding that allows communities to set their own goals. Abandoning FGC is not a requirement in order for communities to participate in the CEP. Rather, communities arrive at the decision at their own pace and of their own volition. It is this respectful facilitation that has allowed Tostan’s impact to spread and the FGC abandonment movement to take hold. 


BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS LEADS TO TRUST; TRUST LEADS TO KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS; KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS BRING CONFIDENCE IN COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP; ALL OF THESE COMBINE TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE CHANGE

Melching has emphasized forming relationships with people in communities, enabling the facilitators in the communities to better understand them as individuals. Tostan spent time gaining the trust of women who began sharing stories of their own harrowing illnesses and of the tragic deaths of their daughters who had undergone FGC.

 

As Tostan began to respectfully offer essential health information, abandonment of the old traditions began, slowly, to follow.

 

 “It was a result of helping the community to understand that FGC was causing other health problems, infections, illnesses and so on, and that if they wanted to, they could change things,” says Melching. “But this was not just ‘messaging’—this was local women learning, talking among themselves, talking to doctors and making those connections firsthand.”

 

Today, over 5,000 communities in Africa that have been reached through the Tostan program have joined the movement to abandon FGC.

 

 

 

During the first phase of the CEP, participants learn the fundamentals of human rights, health, and democracy.  Information about health is shared through honest dialogue and participants discuss the importance of improving their health, as well as that of their families and communities. 

 

Similarly, child/forced marriages are deeply rooted in custom and tradition. In many countries around the world, girls are forced to marry well before the age of 18.

 

A UNICEF report on Child Marriage1 states that parents in developing countries tend to marry their young daughters for many reasons, ranging from economic security to fear of pregnancy outside of marriage.  In most cases, the practice perpetuates the culture of illiteracy since once girls are married they are expected to fill the domestic role of a wife rather than attend school, which can lead to health problems related to early pregnancy and the transmission of infectious diseases.

 

The Tostan modules on human rights, democracy and health have helped community members to understand the harmful impact that child marriage can have on girls and the importance of respecting the children’s rights. As a result, the practice of child marriage is also being abandoned.

 

THE CEP EVOLVED OVER TIME AS A PARTICIPANT-ORIENTED, COMMUNITY DRIVEN PROCESS

 Tostan’s CEP has evolved over time though discussions with community members—80% of whom are women and girls–enabling the program to adapt to better respond to communities’ needs and provide them with the skills and knowledge to improve their living conditions in a sustainable way.  Today, the Tostan program is renowned as one of the most innovative and effective community development programs in Africa.  It is participant-oriented and community driven.  The program emphasizes the development of community goals based on the community's hopes and desires. Input is sought from multiple stakeholders, including women and men, adolescents and adults, and spiritual and religious leaders, ensuring that there is consensus around the community’s goals and that they respect the human rights and priorities of all members.

 

 

During the second module of the CEP, the literacy and economic empowerment component, participants learn to read and write in their own languages.   

 

After setting these goals and gaining skills and knowledge through the CEP, communities work for changes that have included the abandonment of FGC and child/forced marriage, promoting grassroots democracy, empowering women and girls to become community leaders, promoting literacy and family planning, developing small businesses, and increasing school enrolment, to name only a few results.

 

Melching explains, “The process of consensus building in these communities is counter in many ways to what we experience in America.  In America, we encourage independence and individuality and privacy. In America, to read a book quietly is the norm and encouraged, but it's just the opposite in Africa. Most village women prefer group activities. They wonder why anyone would rather be alone. Everything is done as a group. You want to be a part of the whole,” explains Melching.

 

“Everyone in the community is valued. Everyone has a role to fulfil. Every person has a purpose, so each person is integral to the outcome of the decision making process for the community.  

 

“It's amazing how quickly things grow when people are very certain of what they want.”  

 

NON-FORMAL EDUCATION 2  CLASSES CREATE A COMMUNITY FORUM FOR DISCUSSING SUBJECTS RANGING FROM DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS TO LITERACY AND PERSONAL HYGIENE   

The 30-MONTH CEP consists of non-formal education classes that are taught in African languages using traditional cultural elements and methods that are familiar and engaging. The lessons encourage participants to have open conversations and to discuss information about issues that are of concern and interest to them. The program’s modules cover a wide range of development issues, including democracy, human rights, problem solving, hygiene, health, literacy, math, and management skills. 

 

Another unique aspect of Tostan’s relationship with communities is that the organization never begins work in a community until it has been invited to do so. For example, if Tostan and UNICEF—a major Tostan partner—decide to implement the CEP in 40 villages in Mauritania, Tostan would first arrange a two to three day “sensitization” seminar in which Tostan would share the details and goals of the CEP with community leaders, government officials, religious leaders, and the press. This ensures that all participating parties are clear about intentions and are in agreement about implementation. After the seminar, Tostan waits for invitations from community leaders before working in their communities. 

 

 

The CEP includes equal representation from all members of the community, including the traditionally marginalized and those in positions of power.  In this way, communities are able to come to consensus about decisions affecting the entire community.   


Once a village has invited Tostan into their community, a Tostan facilitator helps establish a Community Management Committee (CMC), which is a 17 member, democratically organized group of community representatives who help the community to implement development projects in conjunction with the CEP.  Many CMCs have ultimately registered as official community-based organizations (CBOs) in their respective countries, which gives them an opportunity to build their capacity and continue developing and funding their projects independently after Tostan’s programming has concluded.

 

MOBILE PHONE TECHNOLOGY AS A MEANS TO ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

 Another key development in Tostan’s work has been the introduction of cell phones as a tool to practice literacy skills and connect communities.  As cell phones become more common in the developing world, the technology provides a unique opportunity to empower communities. Texting technology has been used to encourage literacy, numeric knowledge, and even mobile banking. “Cell phones encourage the exchange of information among both individuals and communities both in the country and in diaspora communities around the world,” says Melching.  The results have been tangible and life-changing:

 

 “The technology is so appreciated by the women who can now send messages to their relatives in France or Dakar. Or that they can communicate with a relative in another village by sending them a relatively inexpensive text message instead having to walk to the next village,” says Melching. Women frequently share information about child care and health care and find out information about government services, financial resources, and transportation.

 

 

During Tostan's health and hygiene module, CEP participants learn about strategies for creating cleaner and healthier public spaces in their communities.  As a result, many villages establish weekly community clean-ups to pick up trash and trim bushes and grasses that harbor mosquitoes.

 

 

The mobile effort has been integrated into the second phase of the CEP, which is known as the Aawde, a Fulani word meaning “to plant the seeds.” Devoted to economic empowerment, this phase is composed of literacy lessons and small-project management training. In the Aawde, participants learn to read and write in their own language and study basic math skills. Participants are also encouraged to use their language skills to write letters, songs, stories, and poems. They develop the skills to start and manage small businesses and now through the Jokko initiative, all of these skills are further developed through the use of SMS text message technology. 

 

THE JOKKO INITIATIVE: SMS TEXTING AS A PATHWAY TO LITERACY AND ENTREPRENEURIAL ENTERPRISES

 The Jokko Initiative offers an engaging and interactive means to reinforce the literacy skills learned in the Aawde. For communities that have previously had no way to rapidly send or receive important information across significant distances, learning to read and write SMS text messages can have a profound impact.  

 

 Beyond helping to develop literacy, the Jokko initiative gives communities the ability to access crucial services through mobile technology. Phones also serve as platform through which communities can receive notice of services provided by governments, health clinics, schools, and banks. For example, if the government sends a health worker to a neighbouring village to administer child vaccinations, neighbouring communities can be contacted through text messages  notifying them that a particular vaccination will be given on a specific date in a nearby village.

 

Cell phones also pave the way for innovations such as mobile banking, improving individuals’ financial security and facilitating the use of micro loans and the development of successful small businesses. What’s more, cell phones act as a means of protection for women travelling between villages, as it allows them to immediately contact other community members for help should they feel threatened.

 

 

The Jokko segment of Tostan's CEP uses mobile phones as a practical way to enhance literacy and numeracy skills introduced during the program.  In this photo, the Tostan class facilitator provides instruction in standard cell phone capabilities.  Once class participants have mastered the use of the device, they practice their literacy skills by sending SMS text messages. 


THE BAREFOOT UNIVERSITY AND ECOPRENEURSHIP BRINGS SOLAR ENERGY TO THE VILLAGES

Technology is also bringing electricity to rural villages that are far off the national grid. Tostan began the Solar Power! Project in 2009, a program that enables rural African women to attend an educational program in India called the Barefoot University, in order to be trained as solar electrical engineers.

 

Many rural villages in Africa are not connected to the national electrical grid and thus lack access to light or power, but small solar power units can provide communities with an important energy source. 

 

Through the Tostan-Barefoot College collaboration, each participant completes a six-month training program in Tilonia, India. Upon their return to their villages, the participants then install 50 solar panels throughout their village. Each panel provides enough electricity to power one fixed lamp, one bright solar lantern, one LED flashlight and one plug for charging a mobile phone, thus enabling a wide range of lighting options for the community.

 

“It is amazing what these women can do when they are given the means,” says Melching.

 

 

Many communities participating in Tostan's CEP decide to abandon the harmful practices of FGC and child/forced marriage.  They do so through a public declaration ceremony, inviting leaders and villages in their social networks, as well as the media.  This public event is essential to change, as it marks a moment where people see that abandonment is really happening. And because social networks overlap, in many cases, one declaration leads to interest in abandonment in other communities.  


 

SENSITIVITY TO THE MEN HELPS TO EMPOWER THE WOMEN

 “We've been around for so long that we've made every mistake we can make, so we’re left with what works” says Melching. For instance, while Tostan provides support for women's issues and women's health, the organization's concern for men's rights is paramount as well. At one point in the organization's early years, Melching admits, they may have overlooked the men's concerns.

 

“We (now) show that we are there for them too. That we will stand up beside them. That there is a way to stand up for their human rights peacefully, and to show them that there are economic benefits and improvements to their lives and to their families' lives by empowering the women [of the community],” Melching explained.

 

MELCHING AND TOSTAN ARE ACCLAIMED BY THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMUNITY

 

 

In 2007, Tostan was awarded the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the world’s largest humanitarian award given to the nongovernmental organization that has made “extraordinary progress toward alleviating human suffering.” 

 


 

Tostan has deservedly won the acclaim of world leaders in the human rights arena and has been the recipient of multiple international awards including the 2010 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the 2007 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the 2007 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize, and Sweden’s Anna Lindh Prize for Human Rights in 2005, among others.   

 

A FULL AND VIBRANT LIFE

Although Melching didn't anticipate a life in Africa, what she discovered was a life filled with a kind of joy and beauty she never expected.

“What thrilled me at first was that I would bring the kids books and I would sit and read books to them. The children were so hungry for that kind of experience,” says Melching, who often found herself during those early years in Africa in the midst of groups of children singing traditional music. “The simplest things brought them so much pleasure.  I felt so privileged as they were sharing their songs and traditions with me…I knew I really enjoyed being here.”

 

Would Melching consider moving back to the U.S.?  :

 

“I have a beautiful, vibrant life here with beautiful people…why should I go back? …It is a great place to be,” says Melching of her life in Senegal. “I am so happy to be here, and so happy that I could make a contribution.”

 




2. Non-formal education indicates a structured education program that is not recognized with a formal diploma from the government as in formal state institutions.

 


CONTACT:

 

For answers to general questions, please email us at info@tostan.org.

     

For information about the Africa Volunteer Program and the Washington DC Internship Program,

please visit our Volunteer and Internship Opportunities page, which includes relevant contact information.  

     

For information about donating to Tostan, please click here or contact Gannon Gillespie at  

donate@tostan.org .    

     

Tostan International:

 

 

Headquarters / Siège Social:  

BP 29371  

Dakar- Yoff  

Senegal, West Africa

 

Tostan France:                                            

 

 

Headquarters / Siège Social:  

14, Rue de l'Echiquier  

75010 Paris

 

Office/Bureau:  

8 bis cité d'Hauteville
75010 Paris

 

Phone:  

00-33-1-42-46-85-89    

00-33-6-35-37-00-03

 

Email:

contact@tostanfrance.fr

 

 

To learn more about   Tostan France's work, please visit www.tostanfrance.com .

                   

Tostan United States:

Luzon Pahl | Senior Operations Manager
202-299-1156 (office) | 202-618-5529 (mobile)

 

Email:  info@tostan.org
Web Address:  www.tostan.org

OFFICE ADDRESS: 

2121 Decatur Place NW | Washington, DC 20008

NEW MAILING ADDRESS:
P.O. Box 53323  | Washington, DC 20009-3323


 


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INTERCEPT KENYAN WILDLIFE POACHERS: HELP FUND A DNA FORENSICS LAB

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010


  • ELEPHANTS ARE BRUTALLY SLAUGHTERED BY POACHERS FOR THEIR IVORY.  

 

  • CONSUMERS: YOU CAN HELP SAVE THESE PEACEFUL, GENTLE ANIMALS.  

 

  • BOYCOTT ALL IVORY SALES.  

 

  • EACH PURCHASE OF IVORY PROPELS THE POACHING TRADE.  

 

  • IVORY AND BUSH MEAT SALES KEEP POACHERS IN BUSINESS.

 

  • HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO INTERCEPT THE BUSH MEAT TRADE:



Ken Bernhard and Bill Clark, Chief of Interpol Wildlife Crimes unit, are raising money for a DNA Forensics Lab to be headquartered at the Kenyan Wildlife Service.

 

A DNA Forensics lab will identify poached bush meat sold in local Kenyan storefronts.

 

Contributions for the DNA Forensics lab can be made to The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation (Lindgergh Foundation), with designations to the Aviation Green Investment Program-DNA Forensics Lab.

 

Checks can be mailed to:

Lindbergh Foundaton

2150 Third Avenue North

Anoka, MN  55303

 

Or via credit card at: http://www.lindberghfoundation.org.  Use the Donate Now button and select Aviation Green

 

E-mail info@actionnownetwork.com for a copy of the Proposal developed by the Kenyan Wildlife Service.

 

For additional information, contact: 

Shelley L. Nehl, Managing Director/Grants Program Administrator
LINDBERGH FOUNDATION
phone: 763-576-1596

snehl@lindberghfoundation.org 

 

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Kenyan rangers kill suspected ivory poachers

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

November 1, 2010

BBC NEWS AFRICA

The authorities in Kenya say game rangers have shot dead three suspected elephant poachers in two separate incidents over the past week.

The Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) said one poacher was killed on Sunday night in a "fierce" gun battle in Isiolo.

It said two other poachers were shot dead last Tuesday in the Tsavo region.

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Female Genital Mutilation

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Female Genital Mutilation

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. Increasingly, however, FGM is being performed by health care providers.

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.


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GPS Devices Installed in African Rhinos’ Horns

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

GPS Devices Installed in African Rhinos' Horns

 

By Stephen Messenger

 
October 24, 2010  

TREEHUGGER.COM

In addition to their thick, leathery hide and imposing stature, now a group of African rhinos have one more tool to help protect them against poachers — GPS locating devices embedded directly into their horns. Five such animals in South Africa's Mafikeng Game Reserve were recently equipped with the small tracking chips which will help park officials monitor their movements and alert them to any possible threats from illegal hunting. Conservationists hope that by upgrading the animals with technology of the 21st century it may help ensure this endangered species will still be around at the end of it.

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Calling for an End to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

 

Calling for an End to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

 

UNITED NATIONS POPULATION FUND

Female genital mutilation, also called female genital cutting, refers to the removal of all or part of the female genitalia. Despite global efforts to promote abandonment of the practice, FGM/C remains widespread in many developing countries, and has spread to other parts of the world, such as Europe and North America, where some immigrant families have now settled. But UNFPA and UNICEF, through a joint programme launched in 2007, are working to end to this persistent violation of the human rights of girls and women in one generation.

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The Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking Project

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

The Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking Project

A full library on Female Genital Cutting – articles, bibliography, films.  Great resource.

 

As you are reading this article, there are between eight and ten million women and girls in the Middle East and in Africa who are at risk of undergoing one form or another of genital cutting. In the United States it is estimated that about ten thousand girls are at risk of this practice. FGC in a variety of its forms is practiced in Middle Eastern countries (the two Yemens, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Southern Algeria). In Africa it is practiced in the majority of the continent including Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mozambique, and Sudan.

Even though FGC is practiced in mostly Islamic countries, it is not an Islamic practice. FGC is a cross-cultural and cross-religious ritual. In Africa and the Middle East it is performed by Muslims, Coptic Christians, members of various indigenous groups, Protestants, and Catholics, to name a few.

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Highway threatens migration route

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Highway threatens migration route

Juliette Jowit

Sep 27 2010 

Mail and Guardian Online

The world's greatest migration spectacle — the annual charge of nearly two million wildebeest, zebra and other mammals across East Africa — is under threat from plans to build a road across their route. 

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The Wrong Road

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The Wrong Road

Editorial

August 30, 2010

The New York Times

In late July, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania announced that his government intended to go ahead in 2012 with plans to build a highway running from Arusha in north-central Tanzania to Musoma on Lake Victoria. No one disputes the economic value of developing highways and other public works in Tanzania. But this planned highway includes a potentially tragic pitfall: it cuts straight through the heart of the northern Serengeti, one of the greatest national parks on the planet.

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