Tostan, an African-based NGO, has launched a new project to enable communities in West Africa to share their own vision of development, social change and peace-building through innovative filmmaking.   

Tostan was awarded a $20,000 grant by Stories of Change, a project of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund (DFP), supported by the Skoll Foundation for this project.

Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, which is funding Tostan’s Peace and Security Project, is also supporting the training program for Tostan staff and local filmmakers.

Participants will be trained in participant-led media techniques and filmmaking which gives the power of the story back to the individuals in their communities, allowing them the opportunity to creatively share stories that are the most meaningful to them.  

During the two week training, participants will film how communities are working together to positively resolve border conflicts, inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts, and to alter long-held, cultural practices that limit the role of girls and women in African society.

The project will also increase Tostan’s capacity for multimedia storytelling and story dissemination, with the goal of training and working with community members on non-fiction narratives to build local and international awareness of community-led development and social change.

Tostan, headquartered in Dakar, Senegal and working in eight African countries, implements a three year nonformal education program that seeks to build consensus at the local level around human rights and responsibilities, democracy, health, hygiene, and project management, while also introducing practical skills in literacy and numeracy.

‘Stories of Change’is a multi-year initiative of the Sundance Institute DFP and the Skoll Foundation. The partnership began in 2008 with the goal of bringing together the power of nonfiction storytelling with the impact of social entrepreneurship through convenings, special opportunity funds, workshops and individual consultations.

Los Angeles-based Venice Arts is delivering the two-week intensive media training in Thiès and Kolda in Senegal with a team of experienced filmmakers and trainers.  Participants will learn the fundamentals of filmmaking and storytelling, as well as develop technical skills in filming and editing.

Molly Melching, Tostan’s Founder and Executive Director said:

“We’re excited to launch this project and work with communities to share their visions for social change and peace, and amplify their voices locally, nationally and internationally. My thanks to Stories of Change and Sida for helping us to make this possible!”

Cara Mertes, Director of the Sundance Institute DFP, added, “Tostan represents an incredibly dynamic and impactful approach to creating new cultural practices that are truly embedded in the values and beliefs of the community most affected. We are proud to support a new story strategy for the organization.”


Notes to Editors

1. Tostan is a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Dakar,Senegal. Tostan works primarily in rural and remote areas, delivering nonformal, empowering education on health and hygiene, child welfare, human rights and democracy, the environment, literacy, and economic development.  Tostan is currently implementing its program in Djibouti, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Somalia, and The Gambia.  For more information, visit

2. Stories of Change: Social Entrepreneurship In Focus Through Documentary is a multi-year, $5 million initiative of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and the Skoll Foundation. The partnership began in 2008 with the goal of bringing together the power of nonfiction storytelling with the impact of social entrepreneurship.  For more information, visit

3. Sundance Institute was founded by Robert Redford in 1981 and is a global, nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to nurturing artistic expression in film and theater, and to supporting intercultural dialogue between artists and audiences. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to unite, inform and inspire, regardless of geo-political, social, religious or cultural differences. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival and its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights and theatre artists, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America.  For more information, visit

4. Jeff Skoll created The Skoll Foundation in 1999 to pursue his vision of a sustainable world of peace and prosperity. Led by CEO Sally Osberg since 2001, its mission is to drive large-scale change by investing in, connecting and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them solve the world’s most pressing problems. Over the past 14 years, the Foundation has awarded more than $342 million, including investments in 97 social entrepreneurs and 80 organizations on five continents. In addition to grant-making, the Foundation funds a $20 million+ portfolio of program-related and mission-aligned investments. Skoll also operates the annual Skoll World Forum, the premier conference on social entrepreneurship, and shares the stories of social entrepreneurs through partnerships with leading film and broadcast organizations, including the PBS NewsHour and the Sundance Institute. For more information, visit .

5. Sida is a government agency working on behalf of the Swedish parliament and government with the mission to reduce poverty in the world. Through its work and in cooperation with others, Sida contributes to implementing Sweden’s Policy for Global Development (PGU). In order to carry out its work, Sida cooperates with Swedish government agencies, organizations, and international bodies like the UN, the EU, and the World Bank, among others. Sida carries out enhanced development cooperation with a total of 33 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.For more information, visit .

6. Venice Arts is an award-winning, nationally recognized organization running education and mentoring programs in documentary photography, filmmaking, and multimedia.  They also implementUS-based and international projects with both adults and children; run the Institute for Photographic Empowerment, a collaboration with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; present exhibitions, public programs, and workshops for adults centered around documentary photography and film at the Venice Arts Gallery; and consults on media arts, visual storytelling, and arts education with organizations and groups locally and internationally. For more information, visit

For further information, please contact:
Amy Fairbairn, Director of Communications, Tostan
Telephone: +221 77-877-55-13
Skype: amyfairbairn_tostan