Contact: Gannon Gillespie                                                                


WASHINGTON, DC, August 13, 2007 – Tostan, a US 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Senegal has received the 2007 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, a $1.5 million dollar award that honors a nongovernmental organization that has made “extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering.”

“Tostan means ‘breakthrough’ in the Senegalese Wolof language, and our distinguished independent prize jury found that the organization has indeed achieved major breakthroughs, empowering women and improving the lives of millions of people in nine African countries,” said Steven M. Hilton, president and CEO of the Hilton Foundation. “Through Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program, villages have reduced infant and maternal mortality, lowered the incidence of domestic violence, improved community health services and nutrition, and provided education for their children. Microcredit, environmental, and income-generating projects have mobilized communities to work together to improve their lives.”
Hilton noted that one Tostan participant from The Gambia said, “‘With this program, people will make change from within for themselves without anyone else’s help.’” He added, “This is important, because we in the philanthropic field recognize that change from the bottom up is the best way to assure sustainability.”

“To be selected for the prestigious Hilton Prize is an incredible honor,” said Molly Melching, founder and executive director of Tostan. “This recognition really belongs to the thousands of women, men, and youth whose respect for human rights has led to improved health, education, and economic security for their people. In what we call organized diffusion, the more than 160,000 participants who have taken Tostan’s classes have multiplied the impact of their education tenfold by sharing what they have learned with other neighboring villages.”   
The Hilton Prize is awarded by the Hilton Foundation, a Los Angeles-based organization that provides humanitarian aid and encourages others to help the disadvantaged. This international prize is the world’s largest humanitarian award and ranks as one of the largest monetary prizes in any category. Conrad N. Hilton, the founder of the Hilton hotels chain, established the foundation in 1944 in order to ensure the continued alleviation the suffering of the world’s less fortunate.
The award ceremony will take place on September 12, 2007 in New York City as the culmination of the annual Conrad Hilton International Humanitarian Symposium. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be the keynote speaker.
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 and the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, visit and