September 8th is International Literacy Day worldwide. Its objective is to promote literacy among citizens, communities and associations. For 40 years, UNESCO has been working on continuous advocacy to eradicate illiteracy. Literacy is a human right; it is essential to reducing poverty and child mortality, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.

In addition to the International Day, Tostan participates annually in the National Literacy Week in Senegal. The theme of this year – “Literacy and Sustainable Development” – lies at the heart of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP). The CEP deals with themes such as democracy, human rights, the problem solving process, hygiene and health, literacy, numeracy and basic project management. Tostan uses positive traditional African methods of communication such as dialogue, skits, stories, songs, dance and poetry to enable participants to fully engage in the learning process. In Senegal, the focus is on the most remote areas to narrow the gap between urban and rural areas. Between 2013 and 2014, 470 villages have benefited from the literacy program with a total of 28, 954 direct participants. These are mostly women aged 25 to 45.

New Mobile Phone for Literacy Initiative

Tostan has discovered that one of the main obstacles to sustainability of literacy initiatives is the lack of opportunities to read and write in the everyday life. With cell phones, text messages (SMS) can give individuals the opportunity to practice and improve their skills in reading, writing and basic math on a daily basis. The mobile phone is already one of the modes of communication that are the most frequently used in rural areas.

Therefore Tostan has incorporated the use of mobile phones in program modules so that this attractive tool can be used in literacy classes. So, mobile phones become a new means of communication for learners, facilitating contact with their community and the pursuit of positive social change in large social networks of communities.


Note to editors

Tostan is a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Tostan works mainly in remote rural areas, providing a three-year non-formal education program with impacts in the areas of governance, education, health, the environment, and economic growth. Tostan is currently implementing its program in Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia. For more information, please visit

Press Contact:

Malick Gueye, Communications Manager at Tostan, Senegal


Phone #: +221 33 951 10 51/ +221 77 532 63 86