Model for community organizing in Africa: Tostan

Tostan is an NGO active in eight African countries, founded in 1991 in Senegal. It works to reform practices like FGM, as well as education, human rights and economic development. Trained facilitators from the same ethnic background live in villages for three years. They teach a class for adults and another for adolescents, drawing on African oral traditions such as theater, storytelling, and dance. Participants travel to other villages to inform them about Tostan and their village pledge to end FGM and child marriage, which reached over three million people.[ii] Also, over 7,000 communtities pledged to not marry off their daughters before age 18. In Ethiopia, Taika, observes,


Girls are circumcised at a very young age so that they will be responsible and careful in taking care of their families. They get married at a very young age by an arranged marriage. In the region of Ethiopian Somalia, a girl’s vagina is sewed together until she gets married to prevent her from having a normal relationship with boys. On her wedding day, her husband will have the honor of separating the threads.

[i] Julie Turkkewitz, “Effects of Ancient Custom Present New Challenge to U.S. Doctors,” New York Times, February 5, 2015.



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