Strengthening Democracy and Civic Engagement Module

Tostan’s Latest Program Innovation


Tostan’s newest innovation to its three-year, holistic Community Empowerment Program (CEP) is the Strengthening Democracy and Civic Engagement (SDCE) model.

Why, When & Where

In 2013, the Senegalese government enacted the “Acte III de la Décentralisation” which aimed to harmonize decentralization and local governance efforts. It constituted a promising policy but much of its potential was left untapped. To fill this gap, Tostan first tested the SDCE concept in 2018-2019 in eight districts across four regions of Senegal, in collaboration with UNICEF. In view of the positive results, Tostan is integrating the SDCE in all its programs.


Strengthening Democracy and Civic Engagement enhances community capacity to advocate and collaborate with local government in pursuing a collective vision of well-being. At the same time, it builds the capacity of elected officials in decentralized government structures to manage resources and carry out their community development mandates. It creates institutional change that is aligned and connected to community-led social change, further contributing to systemic and sustainable positive change.

The SDCE training modules engage communities through their Community Management Committees (CMCs) as well as elected officials at the district level (Wards, Collectivités Territoriales, Cercles, etc.).

Topics include understanding democracy, good governance and decentralization, human rights, participatory development planning and budgeting, and transparency and accountability. There is also a focus on the roles and responsibilities of the various actors. New dynamics are set in motion in the District Councils as a result of the increased engagement and commitment of the elected officials and their improved capacity to carry out their mandates.


Through their CMCs, communities in the district become aware of the roles and responsibilities of their elected officials, reinforce their own engagement toward community well-being, and are able to collaborate with decentralized government structures and hold them accountable. Tostan also supports the establishment of Children’s Municipal Councils and trains its elected members who then develop and implement a plan of action with their peers. The Children’s Council is represented in District Councils, facilitating the incorporation of children’s needs in the budgeting and planning processes.