Community Empowerment Program

Dignity for All

At Tostan we believe that every human being – woman, man, and child – has the right to human dignity.


Tostan empowers communities across West Africa and around the world to develop and achieve their vision for the future, leading to dignity for all. Developed over the past three decades, Tostan’s evidence-based empowering education model—the Community Empowerment Program (CEP)—directly supports the scaling of community well-being through a relevant and practical education in local languages. 


Supported by a well-trained, community-hosted local facilitator, the three-year holistic curriculum developed over the years has human rights as the cornerstone of its approach and covers many facets of well-being including: women’s empowerment and gender equality, health knowledge and practices, teaching literacy and numeracy, good governance, changing harmful practices like female genital cutting and child marriage, and economic empowerment.


More about the Community Empowerment Program Modules.

More about the Community Empowerment Program Special Projects.

Human Rights-Based – Knowledge of human rights and dignity for all is the foundation for learning.

Respectful & Inclusive – Information is shared in a non-judgmental, inclusive way to create open dialogue.

Holistic & Sustainable – Our program covers five key impact areas and has sustainability at its core.

We envision a world where everyone is treated equally and respectfully; where they are able to live a life free from harm; where they have the tools they need to determine their own future and fulfill their potential.

Our Community Empowerment Program empowers communities to change their own lives.

We use a human rights-based approach that ensures everything we do reinforces human rights and responsibilities.

Maximizing Impact

Community Empowerment Program (CEP) participants help to spread knowledge of human rights to all interconnected groups and their social networks.



CEP participants share their knowledge of human rights and responsibilities learned in class sessions to all interconnected groups and their social networks.

In this way, that knowledge becomes the catalyst for positive change on a community, regional and national level.

Using a coordinated outreach approach called ‘organized diffusion,’ we help to maximize the impact of this spread of knowledge.

Ensuring Sustainability

At the beginning of the Community Empowerment Program, communities create committees to lead future development initiatives.


Communities create 17-member democratically-selected Community Management Committees (CMCs) trained in project management and social mobilization skills by Tostan. These committees continue to lead development projects that are relevant to their community needs, long after the community has completed the Tostan program.

Through our Empowered Communities Network we connect CMCs with other organizations for resources and skills needed to continue their community development.

Our Success

Our Community Empowerment Program has been implemented since 1991, with some of the following results.

Through their efforts at the grassroots, our partner communities contribute to achievement of the global Sustainable Development Goals. Click here to read more about their recent contributions to the SDGs.

communities from 8 countries have declared abandonment of FGC and child marriage (as of December 2021)

children enrolled in school in Mali in 2021 thanks to CMC activities

  • Declarations of public abandonment of female genital cutting and child/forced marriage
  • Promotion of grassroots democracy
  • Enhancement of economic opportunities at a local level
  • Emergence of female leadership in the community and local government
  • Improvement of literacy and math skills
  • Improved behaviors for the reduction of malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases
  • Increased enrollment of girls in formal school
  • Protection of maternal and child health
  • Protection of children’s rights.