Board of Directors
The members of our Board of Directors bring their various skills and experiences to help guide Tostan’s strategic direction. Each board member is selected based on his or her expertise and according to our organization’s needs. Read more:
Kelly Hawke Baxter
Board Chair & Board Member of Tostan Canada
Kelly Hawke Baxter is a consultant and strategic advisor who has worked in the field of sustainable development and social change for over 25 years. She works with non-profit leaders and organizations to advise on social change strategy and governance. Kelly founded and led The Natural Step Canada, a Canadian non-profit organization promoting sustainable development, and now sits on their Board of Directors. Kelly is also a member of the Board of Tostan Canada, a sister organization that raises funds and awareness for Tostan International. Kelly has Masters degrees in International Development from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Ottawa, in International Journalism from the City University, London, as well as a Masters Certificate in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo. She is also a student mentor and member of the Global Strategy and Leadership Expert Panel of the Desautel School of Management at McGill University. She lives in Montreal, Canada.
Board Vice-Chair & Public Health Consultant
Fatimata Sy is trained as a biologist, Nutritionist, and Public Health Specialist and has over 30 years of experience in international development and public health designing, managing, and evaluating programs in Africa, and building consensus among diverse stakeholders. Mrs. Sy served as is the Director of the Coordination Unit for the Ouagadougou Partnership, a collaboration between nine Francophone West African governments, private, government, multilateral donors and countless civil society organizations to promote family planning; the GFATM Liaison for the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and USAID West Africa, the Director of FHI360’s West African Regional HIV/AIDS Project, and the Country Director for FHI360 in Senegal, among other roles. Mrs. Sy has a Masters of Public Health from The Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and a University Technical Diploma from the Technology Institute of Nancy, France.
Thiaba Camara Sy
Advisor to the Regional Head, West, Central and North Africa, at Mastercard Foundation
A graduate of the École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris (ESCP), Thiaba is a Chartered Accountant with more than 32 years of experience in audit, due diligence and financial advisory for public institutions and blue-chip companies across sectors. She was the Managing partner of Deloitte Senegal, which she founded in 1990 before joining Afig Funds, a prominent African Private Equity company in 2017 and 2018 and subsequently co-funding WIC CAPITAL, a gender VC fund dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurship in Francophone West Africa. Thiaba is currently working as an Advisor to Mastercard Foundation and sharing with Tostan her background in finance and management, as well as her deep-rooted knowledge of West Africa.
Jan H Christiansen
Chair & Co-founder of Tostan Denmark
With an extensive background in business, Jan Christiansen, who holds both a Masters in Engineering and a Graduate Diploma in Business Finance, is a self-described “Danish globetrotting serial entrepreneur.” Jan brings to the Tostan Board a global outlook, hands-on management knowledge, a family business perspective, and his experience leading and working with enterprises large and small, in both well-developed and more challenging environments. He also has a “knack for the good laughs that any great task requires to be accomplished successfully.” Jan’s business interests are diversified mainly in the fields of automotive distribution, solar power, trading and real estate and as the next step in life he recently co-founded and chairs Tostan Denmark.
Mary Ellen Cunningham
Mary Ellen brings 25 years of diverse professional and personal experience to her organizational consulting and nonprofit executive search work. Her primary focus is to unleash the potential of individuals and organizations to create sustainable social change. Through her work in nonprofit management, community development, fundraising, and education, she has developed a keen understanding of how teams work, what it entails to achieve truly mission-driven work, and the importance of partnership as the foundation for almost anything worth doing. She has had the privilege of working with numerous nonprofits, both domestically and internationally, as a founder, executive director, program developer, board member, volunteer, donor and consultant. Her breadth and depth of perspective has honed her skills and sensibilities to support organizations to be strategic, inclusive, fueled by mission and highly effective. Mary Ellen holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.S. in Experiential Education from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and son.
President of Breakthrough Strategies & Co-founder and Chair of Tostan Canada
Gail Kaneb is a change catalyst, working with individuals, groups, and corporations across North America to identify what they want to achieve, what the obstacles are, and how to surmount them. Gail brings this innovative knowledge and expertise to Tostan where she promotes organizational and fiscal development. Gail is a Co-Founder of Tostan Canada and has served as Board Chair for both Tostan and Tostan Canada.
Founder and Creative Director of Tostan
Since arriving in Senegal in 1974, Molly Melching has helped thousands of communities achieve transformative social change through her NGO, Tostan, and its groundbreaking educational programs. Her primary role on the Board of Directors is to represent the interests of Tostan’s participants and staff and to ensure the vision and philosophies of the organization. Aimee Molloy has written a best-selling biography of Molly, recounting Tostan’s origin story: However Long the Night: Molly Melching and the Sparking of a Grassroots Movement for Human Rights in Africa.
Anne Charlotte Ringquist
Director of Tostan Sweden
Long interested in African culture and having a master’s degree in Social Anthropology, Anne Charlotte Ringquist has spent significant time studying and living in Africa. During a stay in Senegal, Anne Charlotte was introduced to Tostan and was immediately taken with the organization’s methods. She returned home to found Tostan Sweden and has since assisted the Board with public relations, fundraising, and advocacy work in Scandinavia and Europe.
Board Secretary & Agriculture Program Lead at Mastercard Foundation
Diaka is a Financial consultant with a focus on impact investing solutions. She was the West Africa Regional Manager for Root Capital, a social investment fund, supporting agribusinesses in access to finance and financial management training. Previously, she worked for Citibank and consulted for organizations such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. With her background in agricultural economics, banking and value chain finance in West Africa, she is supporting Tostan’s development towards community economic transformation.
Pape Momar Sow
Pape Momar Sow is an education specialist. After a successful career as a primary and secondary education teacher and then education inspector, he was appointed national director of several directorates including Literacy and Non-Formal Education, Preschool and Primary Education, Education Planning and Reform. From 2000 to 2002 he served as Africa Director for Paul Gérin-Lajoie, a Canadian NGO. He then spent 11 years leading the Education Department for USAID Senegal. From 2014 to 2019 Pape was the West Africa Coordinator of USAID’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) based in Ghana. Pape is currently the Senior Education Advisor for Save the Children/Senegal.
Tostan is grateful and would like to thank all previous members for their many years of service on Tostan’s Board.