Enhancing Economic Opportunities

What’s at Stake

Limited opportunities for economic development, especially for women, allow inequalities to persist.



Although many African economies have experienced rapid growth over the past few years, unemployment remains high and economic opportunities in rural areas are still limited, especially for women.
When a family is struggling economically, girls are more likely than boys to be taken out of school to help with income-generating activities or agricultural labor, and they are more likely to be married at a young age.

We believe that communities can manage their own economic development in ways that make sense for their family and their communities.

What We’re Doing

Participants in our Community Empowerment Program (CEP) develop the skills needed to manage projects and run small businesses.



The final phase of the CEP, the Aawde, includes class sessions on basic literacy, math, project management, and budgeting skills that help participants successfully plan and launch small businesses in their communities.

We also provide small Community Development Grants to Community Management Committees (CMC). The CMCs often use these grants to establish a rotating microcredit fund that helps community members, particularly women, with the investment they need to start small businesses, invest in agriculture, or take on other income-generating activities. The CMC also encourages community members to save and plan for the future.

Community Success

Small businesses funded by Community Development Grants encourage entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency while opening up new possibilities for income generation.

Community Management Committees have successfully used grants of $300-$1,000 to launch small businesses including selling basic food staples; making and selling products like soap, mosquito-repellent lotion, fruit juices, or dyed fabric; and organizing collective projects such as community gardens and animal-raising cooperatives. Many of these small businesses are run by women, offering them the opportunity to earn an independent income.

Through the Empowered Communities Network, we connect communities with local and international organizations to work together on small business ventures and microcredit programs.

Key Metrics

people in The Gambia are engaged in income-generating activities with CMC support as of 2018

US dollars in community-managed funds in the 40 CEP communities in Guinea in 2021

Microgrants in COVID-19

During the unprecedented events caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tostan partnered with the Mastercard Foundation from 2020-2022 to support the most vulnerable households in Senegal – in the departments of Médina Yoro Foula, the regions of Kolda and Ranérou, and the region of Matam. Tostan and the Mastercard Foundation piloted an unconditional micro-grant initiative that was launched and monitored with the help of local authorities and Community Management Committees. Over 2,000 households (mostly women as recipients) were beneficiaries of approximately $115 each spread over three instalments. According to the reported findings by IDInsight, the majority of beneficiaries found the grant useful, spending most of their money on food, followed by productive purchases, education and health care.