Due to a lack of information and education around human rights and responsibilities, often structural governance procedures and processes are absent from the communities in which we work. This includes activities such as systematic birth registration, voter registration, and the active participation of women and youth in meetings and decision-making at both the family and community level.
In many communities, rates of birth registration are extremely low, causing problems when children start school or need healthcare. Likewise, many residents do not register to vote or participate in elections. We believe in fostering a culture of democracy, starting at a grassroots level.
Community Empowerment Program (CEP) participants learn about the fundamental elements of democracy, their human rights, and the responsibilities associated with defending and respecting those rights.
Democratically-selected Community Management Committees (CMC) become a strong leadership presence in Tostan partner communities, contributing to the growth of fair governance and democracy. The CMC works to increase democratic participation by encouraging residents to register to vote, obtain national identity cards, register births, and participate in national elections.
In all CMCs, female members are in the majority. These women emerge as community leaders, activists, and role models, showing young girls and boys alike that women can succeed in leadership roles and work alongside men as equals.
To date, over 2,300 democratically functioning Community Management Committees (CMC) have been created in the countries in which we have implemented our program.
Many of these CMCs have gained formal civil society organization status, and many have joined together to create Regional Federations in Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal. In Senegal alone, we are currently working with 738 legally constituted and officially registered community-based organizations.
For many female participants, program class sessions are their first opportunity to voice their opinions before a mixed group. Women who have participated in our program emerge as leaders at both a local and regional level. In Senegal, more than 80 percent of CMCs are led by women.