Meet Maty Cissé! She was born in Keur Daouda Cissé, Senegal on October 16, 1963. Maty was introduced to Tostan in 1991—the year of our founding. Although her own village chief rejected the program, Maty began attending Community Empowerment Program (CEP) classes in a neighboring community. Inspired by the new knowledge and open spirit of the program, Maty participated in awareness-raising activities with other Tostan participants. Eventually, she helped convince her own community to welcome Tostan and the CEP.

Over the past 25 years, Maty has had many successes. For example, despite having never attended formal school, she can read and write in Wolof—her native language—after completing the literacy modules in the CEP. To this day, she remains active in community leadership as the elected Head Coordinator for income generating activities in the Community Management Committee. Maty even leads a local religious group.

Maty’s most recent adventure is something she never expected—she’s currently in India for a six-month training on solar engineering in collaboration with Barefoot College. “I couldn’t have imagined leaving Senegal to go as far as India. The idea of the trip was scary at first, but after talking with the Empowered Communities Network and my husband, I finally believed in myself…I believe I can complete this training program just as successfully as I did the CEP, which shaped who I am today.” She feels confident in the skills she developed during and after the CEP—problem-solving, project management, and the ability to consider other points of view.

When she returns to Senegal in March, her mission is to help her community and those in the vicinity by bringing electricity via solar energy to people’s homes. Optimistic about improving the living conditions in her area, Maty explains, “This work fills me with pride.”


Interview by Dame Gueye, Coordinator of the Empowered Communities Network