Contact: Gannon Gillespie                                                               
WASHINGTON, DC, July 18, 2007  – Tostan has received the 2007 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) King Sejong Literacy Prize.
Created in 1989 and sponsored by the government of the Republic of Korea , two annual King Sejong Literacy Prizes are awarded to institutions, organizations, or individuals demonstrating “outstanding merit and achieving particularly effective results in adult literacy and post-literacy activities and their integration into basic education programs.”
This year’s award focused on literacy and its links with general health care, nutrition, family and reproductive health, and health-related community development—all areas in which Tostan’s program has significant impacts. From abandoning harmful practices such as female genital cutting and child marriage to reducing maternal and infant mortality, participants in Tostan’s nonformal education program learn to investigate and address their own health challenges, with an accent on prevention.
“Tostan has always believed in a holistic approach to literacy and development, and we are pleased that UNESCO has chosen to recognize the important link between literacy and health this year, ” said founder and Executive Director Molly Melching. “Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program is rooted in a basic understanding of human rights, and literacy and health are two of the most fundamental. Our program gives participants not only the knowledge, but also the skills to act on those human rights and responsibilities. ”
The King Sejong Prize is named for a Korean king whose invention more than 500 years ago of an alphabet consisting of 22 easy-to-learn letters permitted his subjects to master reading and writing.
The award ceremony will take place on September 10, 2007 in Bamako, Mali, during the African Regional Conference in Support of Global Literacy.
Tostan is a US 501(c)(3) nongovernmental organization based in the West African country of Senegal. Tostan works primarily in rural regions to promote basic education and increase community engagement in projects related to health and hygiene, child welfare, human rights and democracy, the environment, and economic development. Tostan is currently implementing its program in Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, Somalia, and Mauritania. For more information on Tostan, visit