WASHINGTON, DC January 8, 2010— In her speech entitled “Development in the 21st Century” at the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics organized by the Center for Global Development on January 6th, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cited Tostan’s work with communities as an example of the kind of community engagement that the Secretary says will be a key part of the new U.S. strategy for international development. In the case of Tostan’s work in Senegal, education led to community involvement, which in turn led to the protection of human rights and community-wide democratic involvement, a reinforcing cycle that Secretary Clinton says will be “an integral part of [the U.S.] agenda.”
The following is an extract from Secretary Clinton’s speech:

Development… furthers a key goal of our diplomatic efforts: to advance democracy and human rights worldwide. I remember vividly my visit some years ago the village of Saam Njaay in Senegal, where a former Peace Corps volunteer, Molly Melching, set up a village-based NGO called Tostan. And through Tostan’s projects, women in the village began speaking out about the health consequences and pain of female genital mutilation, an accepted practice there. This collective awakening led to a village-wide discussion and soon the village voted to end the practice. Men from Saam NJaay traveled to other villages to explain why FGM was bad for women and girls—and by extension, their families and communities—and other villages banned it too. A grassroots political movement grew and eventually the government passed a law banning the practice nationwide.  

…This village demonstrates how development, democracy, and human rights can and must be mutually reinforcing. Democratic governance reinforces development, and development can help secure democratic gains.

To read the full transcripts of Secretary Clinton’s speech click here.