What We Do

Tostan’s 3-year Community Empowerment Program (CEP) helps African communities bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on human rights. The CEP engages participants using familiar methods of communication such as dialogue and exchange, theater, poetry, and song, while addressing topics of high interest. It begins with a year of discussion and action on democracy and human rights, problem-solving, and hygiene and health. It then moves on to numeracy, management, budgeting, and small project implementation, and literacy through SMS text messaging. Through the CEP, Tostan promotes the development and use of critical thinking skills leading to decision-making processes that involve all community members. As a result, the program enables agreement on, and long-term commitment to, new development objectives and shifts in social norms. One outcome of the CEP has been community abandonment of harmful practices such as female genital cutting and child marriage. Tostan helps establish village microfinance banks and provide training in budgeting, feasibility studies, business plans and microfinance to build skills that raise income and standards of living. Tostan promotes respect for the human right to education for all, particularly girls, who have historically had limited access to schooling. Tostan encourages families to keep both their daughters and their sons in school.