NGO Tostan, partners to create $41 million « Breakthrough Fund » to end child marriage and female genital cutting, build women’s leadership, and empower girls in thousands of communities across six countries

NEW YORK, New York, 29 September 2011—Tostan, a US nonprofit organization based in Senegal, announced at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting a major new effort designed to transform thousands of rural communities in West Africa. Through initial support from the Nike Foundation, the Greenbaum Foundation, and HP, Tostan is launching the “Breakthrough Fund,” an innovative « pooled fund » financing model that will allow it to accelerate growth and community-driven results while reducing some of the inefficiencies of other scaling models.

The Breakthrough Fund will enable Tostan to scale up the proven results of its education program, the Community Empowerment Program, over the next six years.  Expected impacts include the abandonment of child marriage and female genital cutting by thousands of communities, the empowerment of tens of thousands of girls and women leaders, and increased democratic participation and community development forhundreds of thousands living in 1,350 communities in six West African countries.

“The idea behind the fundis borrowed from the world of venture capital firms: get a group of supporters together around a common plan, with an up-front commitment, so that Tostan can focus on getting results in the field.” says Tostan Executive Director Molly Melching.“We are building this fund to scale up faster and smarter. » She explains that the motivation for the work is community demand: « In many of our offices in rural regions of Africa, we have stacks of letters from communities requesting our program.”

Tostan announced the creation of the US $41 million fund at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, having already secured commitments for 10% of the fund from lead investors Nike Foundation and the Greenbaum Foundation. Tostan will be raising the remainder of the funds throughout the fall. “We already have interest from additional investors, even ahead of the announcement, which is encouraging,” says Melching.

Gannon Gillespie, Tostan’s Director of Strategic Development, says that the fund will help Tostan with some unique scaling challenges. “The ability to plan on a longer-term basis,” he says,“allows us to coordinate our multi-year, multi-sector, cross-border program the way we need to.”

Jim Greenbaum of the Greenbaum Foundation says the model appeals to donors too. « If I fund Tostan alone, I can support a specific project or initiative, which I’ve been happy to do. But this fund allows me to invest with others to create much more impact than my investment could ever have alone,” Greenbaum explains. He also notes that because of the pooled resources, Tostan will be able to do high-level monitoring and evaluation and more in-depth reporting, which are normally not possible on smaller projects.

“Tostan’s model has achieved breakthrough results by empowering girls and creating communities that support girls, » says Maria Eitel, President and CEO of the Nike Foundation. « We look forward to seeing the model being scaled through the Breakthrough Fund and hope others will join. »

Gillespie also highlights the key role played by the Clinton Global Initiative in developing the Breakthrough Fund: « CGI facilitates the connections between like-minded and committed partners, helping us come together and move things forward. » Ahead of the CGI annual meeting, Tostan’s partner HP has also joined the commitment with a key partnership that will help Tostan build a world-class IT system to support the Breakthrough Fund and the 1,350 communities it will impact.

Tostan is also discussing with other CGI partners about joining ahead of its first investor meetings in October.


About Tostan: Founded in 1991, Tostan is a US 501c3 nonprofit organization headquartered in Senegal, West Africa. The organization currently has over 1,300 full-time staff and community facilitators, and is currently bringing its education model, the Community Empowerment Program, to over 800 communities in eight countries in Africa. Tostan’s impact has been recognized by the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the UNESCO King Sejong Prize for Literacy, the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and Sweden’s Anna Lindh Award for Human Rights. For more information, please visit

About the Clinton Global Initiative: Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI Annual Meetings have brought together nearly 150 current and former heads of state, 18 Nobel Prize laureates, hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made more than 2,000 commitments, which have already improved the lives of 300 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued in excess of $63 billion. The 2011 Annual Meeting will take place Sept. 20-22 in New York City.

This year, CGI also convened CGI America, a meeting focused on developing ideas for driving economic growth in the United States. The CGI community also includes CGI U, which hosts an annual meeting for undergraduate and graduate students, and CGI Lead, which engages a select group of young CGI members for leadership development and collective commitment-making. For more information, visit