Evaluations & Research

Breakthrough Generation Initiative Mixed-Methods Final Evaluation Report

September 2023

This Mixed-Methods Final Evaluation Report assesses and examines the changes in well-being achieved by partner communities through the Breakthrough Generation Initiative; the implementation of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program in 150 resource-poor, mostly rural communities in Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Gambia between 2017 and 2020. 

The report is the most comprehensive document to date that demonstrates the impact

of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program in reinforcing the capacity of communities to make systemic, sustainable changes and improve their individual and collective well-being. It includes many visuals showing concrete results reached by partner communities in improved governance and gender relations, as well as health, education, sanitation, economic livelihood and harmful practices. The report also gives voice to community members, capturing their recurring comments and reflections regarding the changes that were most significant for them and how they achieved them.  In the discussion, it shares the increased evidence-based understanding of the importance of relational well-being to reach additional results and it identifies a common pathway that communities follow towards new social norms and improved community well-being.

The findings and learnings, developed with partner communities, are serving to further improve the program and the measurement of its results. This report enables Tostan to share major findings and lessons with development partners engaged in supporting communities’ efforts to improve their well-being.

Download the report (English) 

Download additional information:

Findings from Quantitative Data Analysis (2021)
Findings from Qualitative Data Analysis (2022)
Analysis of CMC Focus group in The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Mali (2022)
Activity Report (2021)

The Community Empowerment Program (CEP) 2019 – 2022: Key findings 

October 2023

With the end of Tostan’s Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) 2016-2022 and the transition to the new SEP 2023-2030, Tostan embarked on a review exercise to take stock of the changes to which the organization has contributed, especially in relation to communities that benefited from the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) during the period 2016-2022. This learning exercise drew on the CEP evaluations carried out during the period, and these results were assessed in light of the key lessons from the Breakthrough Generation Initiative (BGI) project evaluation.

In light of these lessons from BGI, evaluations of CEPs implemented between 2019 and 2022 have been reviewed to see if their results confirm the lessons from BGI.

This report is structured around three main points: (i) a reminder of BGI’s key results and the lessons learned; (ii) a description the CEPs implemented between 2016 and 2022 and their key results; and (iii) discussion of the innovations for strengthening democracy and citizen participation and the role of men in the program. Overall, the learning exercise has helped Tostan identify lessons to be shared internally and taken forward in the new strategic cycle.

Download the report (English) 

The Effects of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program: 2021 Evaluability Assessment

March 2022: IDinsight

In 2021, Tostan conducted an Evaluability Assessment (EA) of its Community Empowerment Program (CEP) with the organization IDinsight. The EA served to test the feasability and desirability of conducting an impact evaluation (IE) of the program using an experimental or quasi-experimental design. The EA advanced Tostan’s learning goals, and concluded this type of design would require changes to the program that would alter the program in ways that would distort its very nature and would limit its capacity to reach the results observed to date

Access the Evaluability Assessment

Cultures of dignity are possible: Lessons on how to build organizations that respect humans

August 2022: IDinsight

In 2022, Tostan contributed to research carried out by IDinsight into how organisations and leaders in the development sector are building dignity into internal cultures. Tostan is profiled alongside 4 other organisations, to highlight work addressing the “structures of aid [that] produce disrespectful relations and processes”. This research is an exploration of this work, which aims to uphold and reinforce the dignity of people and communities we work with. 

Download the report

Enhancing Social Norms Programs: An Invitation to Rethink ‘Scaling UP’ from a Feminist Perspective

December 2021: CUSP

“Enhancing Social Norms Programs: An invitation to rethink ‘scaling up’ from a feminist perspective” will be of interest to anyone seeking to reduce violence against women and girls and to advance their sexual and reproductive health and rights, increasing the safety, security, and well-being of women and girls in all their diversity, across their lifespan, and around the world.

The article was produced by the Community for Understanding Scale Up (CUSP), a group of eight organizations working across several regions with robust experience in scaling gender-based social norm change methodologies in various contexts. CUSP partners include the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP),Intervention with Microfinance for AIDS and Gender Equity (IMAGE), the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University, Center on Gender Equity and Health (GEH)—UC San Diego, Oxfam GB, Raising Voices,Salamander Trust, and Tostan

> Access the full article
> For other materials created by CUSP click here

Tostan’s Breakthrough Generation Initiative

June 2021: Tostan

These preliminary reports share quantitative and qualitative data analyses from the Breakthrough Generation Initiative (2017-2020). The evaluation sought to measure the degree of success that the Breakthrough Generation Initiative achieved in the interconnected areas that are important for realizing community-led development and wellbeing as identified by Tostan partner communities. 

> Findings from Quantitative Data Analysis
> Findings from Qualitative Data Analysis
> Analysis of CMC Focus group in The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Mali
> Activity Report

Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program in Goudiry Department, Senegal: Community-Level Changes in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Related Outcomes

October 2020: PATH

The evaluation of Tostan’s community empowerment approach with a focus on IPV outcomes offered the opportunity to examine change over time and the social processes behind that change, not only for IPV but for many other outcomes, given the program’s emphasis on human rights, social norms change, and the empowerment of both women and men in defining and leading community development..

> Link to the Summary Report

The Current State of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) and Diffusion Communities

June 2020: IDinsight

We addressed a knowledge gap for Tostan on the conditions of communities several years after the end of their Community Empowerment Program (CEP). Tostan’s CEP is a three year program that aims to support community self-efficacy and collective action to increase the well-being and dignity of all community members.

> Link to the final report

> Link to the interpretation memo

> Link to the COVID-19 KAP Study

Problem-posing Human Rights Education: a revolutionary tool for social change and human development

2019: Gabriela Mezzanotti

Book review of: Cislaghi, Beniamino. (2018). Human Rights and Community-led Development: Lessons from Tostan. Edinburgh: University Press. 287 pp. hardcover ISBN: 9781474419796; ebook ISBN: 978147441981.

Changing Social Norms: the Importance of Organized Diffusion for Scaling Up Community Health Promotion and Women Empowerment Interventions

2019: Beniamino Cislaghi, Elaine Denny, Mady Cissé, Penda Gueye, Binita Shrestha, Prabin Nanicha Shrestha, Gemma Ferguson, Claire Hughes and Cari Jo Clark

In this paper, researchers look at the potential of ‘organized diffusion’ as a cost-effective strategy to expand the positive effects of community-based interventions, including achieving sustainable normative shifts. Looking at three case studies—Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program in Mali, Change Starts at Home in Nepal, and Voices for Change in Nigeria—the papers shows that interventions which facilitate participant-led sharing of new knowledge and understandings with others in their networks can reach normative change at greater scale. This paper was written in collaboration with NGO colleagues from Tostan, Voices for Change, and Change Starts at Home, as well as academic co-authors from Emory and Mercer University.

The potential of a community-led approach to change harmful gender norms in low- and middle-income countries

2019: Beniamino Cislaghi

Much action to challenge discriminatory gender norms takes place at community level. Drawing on his experience of working with Tostan in West Africa and literature on social norm change and community-led development, Dr Ben Cislaghi discusses some of the challenges and opportunities that community-level action to change gender norms presents. He highlights issues related to power relations, competing agendas and the importance of working with men and boys.
This report is published through the ALiGN platform (Advancing Learning and Innovation on Gender Norms.)

The story of the now women changing gender norms in rural West Africa

2018: Beniamino Cislaghi

This article offers a qualitative investigation of how human rights education sessions, embedded in a multi-faceted intervention, helped members of a rural community in West Africa challenge inequitable gender norms that hindered women’s political participation. Results show a change in women’s political participation and community members’ descriptions of women’s potential. Three features of the intervention contributed to this change: (1) its pedagogical approach; (2) its substantive content; and (3) the engagement of men and women together. The article calls for interventions that facilitate sustained dialogue between men and women to achieve greater gender equity. © Development in Practice, 28:2, 257-268 Taylor & Francis Ltd

On the CUSP of Change: Effective scaling of social norms programming for gender equality

2017: Community for Understanding Scale Up (CUSP)

Tostan is proud to participate in the Community for Understanding Scale Up (CUSP), a global coalition of NGOs known for their impact in social norms change, violence prevention and women’s empowerment. In this policy brief, the coalition provides practical insights and advice for programmers, funders, researchers, and policymakers as they take social norms programming to scale. For further insights, check out this blog piece on Apolitical by fellow coalition member, The Salamander Trust.

Today I see that women lead: How women became and came to see themselves as leaders in their communities and Tostan’s role in the process

2017: Kyla J. Korvne

This study, made possible by a Fulbright grant, describes how women came to run for leadership positions, including elected political office, in the Goudiry region of Senegal.  The women gained the ability to speak in public, new competencies that were evident to the rest of their community, and self-confidence through Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program.

Motives and Methods of Social Mobilization in Rural Senegal

August 2016: Antonia Morzenti, SIT Graduate Institute

> Access the thesis

Revising the Script: Taking Community Mobilization To Scale For Gender Equality

2016: International Center for Research on Women & Raising Voices

This series of case studies examines various human rights and development programs within the context of innovation, evaluation, and scaling up. Their particular focus is how community mobilization approaches are used to successfully address many socially and politically sensitive issues, especially in terms of intimate partner violence.

Values Deliberation and Collective Action: Community Empowerment in Rural Senegal

2016: Beniamino Cislaghi, Diane Gillespie, Gerry Mackie

This book describes how a program of values deliberations with discussions surrounding human rights has led to individual and collective empowerment in communities in rural Senegal. These values deliberations contribute to a larger process that results in improvements in areas such as education, health, child protection, and gender equality. The book also focuses on how participants, particularly women, enhance their individual and collective capacities to play public roles and foster community action.

Participatory Development: A Tool of Pedagogy

2016: Akor Omachile Opaluwah

Published in Exchanges: The Warwick Research Journal, this study explores the role participatory methods can be play in education initiatives designed to increase personal engagement in one’s society. Tostan is cited (pg 12) as having successfully brought a participatory program to West Africa in order to educate and create opportunity for communities, which in turn became a key factor in the movement for female genital cutting abandonment.

Reinforcement of Parental Practices program infographics

2016: Tostan’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research & Learning Team

Following the final evaluation of the 18-month Reinforcement of Parental Practices program, these infographics were created to compare the baseline study and end of program results in Senegalese communities. They show significant improvements in interactions between primary caregivers and infants, as well as attitude changes surrounding beliefs on parenting.

Mid-Term Evaluation Infographic

2016: Tostan’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research & Learning Team

These infographics represent some of the key results from the mid-term evaluation of our Community Empowerment Program, which was implemented simultaneously in 150 partner communities across four countries–Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Mauritania. This evaluation compares findings with the baseline study in these communities and shows the progress made and changes in attitude halfway through the program.

Faith and Development in Focus: Senegal

2016: Lauren Herzog & Wilma Z. Mui

This report from the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs and the World Faiths Development Dialogue at Georgetown University examines the influence of religion in Senegalese daily life with a particular focus on faith-inspired engagement and contributions to development. The research highlights Tostan’s work with religious leaders for the promotion of women’s empowerment and human rights.

Development Report 2015: Mind, Society and Behavior

2015: World Bank Group

Tostan’s Reinforcement of Parental Practices module cited on page 106 as a method to bring future benefits to children through changing parental behaviors in early childhood.

Designing for Transformative Scale: Global Lessons in What Works

2015: Jeri Eckhart-Queenan, Abe Grindle, Jacquelyn Hadley and Roger Thompson

The authors cite Tostan’s program as an effective innovation for social norms change, having an impact at a transformative scale.

Narrowing the Gender Gap: Empowering Women through Literacy Programmes

2015: UNESCO

This compilation of case studies from the UNESCO Effective Literacy and Numeracy Practices Database draws from examples across every region of the world to highlight successful approaches to delivering literacy skills to women and girls. These learning experiences in literacy and other basic life skills lay the groundwork for empowered women, families, and communities.

Successful Approaches to Ending Female Genital Cutting

2015: Kay Young McChesney

This study, conducted at University of Illinois Springfield and published in the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, compares approaches to FGC abandonment. It describes “unsuccessful approaches” such as “cultural absolutism, cultural relativism, health education, feminism, human rights legislation, and psychosocial approaches” in contrast to two “successful programs”–including Tostan’s model–which are cited as “community-led, aim to change social norms in the whole community, and empower women.”

An evaluation of Tostan’s Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) program

2015: Drs. Anne Fernald & Ann Weber

The Stanford-Tostan Evaluation Project (STEP) of Stanford University evaluated our Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) program, which aims to improve Early Childhood Development by working with parents, teachers, and other primary caregivers and their interactions with their babies and young children. The evaluation, complete with ilucidating infographics, shows the positive impact these parenting techniques have had on children in Senegal.

Legislating Change? Responses to Criminalizing Female Genital Cutting in Senegal

2014: Bettina Shell-Duncan, Katherine Wander, Ylva Hernlund, Amadou Moreau

This study examines the range of responses in rural Senegal where a 1999 anti-FGC law was imposed on communities in which the practice was being actively contested and targeted for elimination. The study analyzes responses in relation to two leading theories on social regulation, which make differing predictions on the relationship between social norms and legal norms. Among supporters of FGC, legal norms ran counter to social norms, and did little to deter the practice, and in some instances incited reactance or drove the practice underground. Conversely, where FGC was being contested, legislation served to strengthen the stance of those contemplating or favoring abandonment. The authors conclude that legislation can complement other reform strategies by creating an “enabling environment” that supports those who have or wish to abandon FGC.

Education and Skills 2.0: New Targets and Innovative Approaches

2014: World Economic Forum

Tostan’s approach for empowering vulnerable populations through human rights education is mentioned in chapter 6, page 56.

Empowering women and girls for positive scial change (in French)

2014: CentrAider

Tostan detailed as a case study on women and girls’ empowerment, in the newsletter of CentrAider, a multi-actor, international solidarity network based in France.

Voice and Agency: Empowering women and girls for shared prosperity

2014: World Bank Group

Tostan case study for enhancing women’s agency, detailed in chapter 2, page 32.

Health and Development: Special Edition on FGC (in French)

2014: Développement et Santé with Excision, Parlons-En!

In this FGC-focused edition of the international publication for health workers, Tostan is mentioned on pages 35 and 38.

Mothers of Innovation

2014: Geraldine Beddell

The author discusses issues in social innovation, citing Molly Melching and the Tostan program as successful in innovating for social norms change in Senegal, through the movement for abandonment of FGC.

Development, Aspirations and Frustrations: Exploring social change in rural Gambia

2013: Leonora Evans Gutierrez

This study examines the connection between development and aspirations in the rural community of Kissi Kissi, Eastern Gambia, which had participated in the Tostan Community Empowerment Program. The author argues that, through the CEP, community members were able to articulate realistic aspirations and had faith in their own capabilities to achieve them. However, external constraints to achieving these goals resulted in a sense of frustration. With this study, the author hoped to offer a more nuanced understanding of how people engage with their own development.
Written for an MA in ‘Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation’ at the University of Sussex, this paper was award-winning, and the author was supported by Tostan volunteer Diane Gillespie.

Case Studies on UNICEF Programming in Child Protection

2013: UNICEF

These case studies illustrate how UNICEF support is helping countries to strengthen child protection systems and promote social change to align social norms and practices with child protection. The case studies provide evidence of positive results from diverse initiatives in nine countries, including Tostan’s work to end female genital-cutting in Senegal.

Ending Child Marriage: What Works

2013: International Center for Research on Women / Girls Not Brides

In this report, the ICRW looked at what works when it comes to delaying or preventing child marriage. The report cites Tostan’s Community Empowerment program as one of the leading strategies.

Adolescentes, jeunes femmes et développement (in French)

2013: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Working Group for Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Development

In this report, Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program was cited as best practice for promoting gender equality and the empowerment of girls. The report presents ten recommendations for the Ministry on how to better address the needs and priorities of girls and young women through development programs, listing Tostan’s approach throughout.

Turning on Mobile Learning in Africa and the Middle East: Illustrative Initiatives and Policy Implications

2013: UNESCO

UNESCO Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning which details the Jokko Initiative in Senegal, using mobile phones for literacy learning and development.

National Action Plan for the Abandonment of FGC 2010-2015 (in French)

2010: Government of Senegal

The government of Senegal based the National Action Plan for the Abandonment of FGC largely on our program, advocating a human rights-based approach to the goal of ending female genital cutting (FGC) in Senegal by 2015.

Social Dynamics of Abandonment of Harmful Practices: A New Look at the Theory

2009: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre

The authors of this article take a new look at understanding the factors that perpetuate harmful social practices, such as FGC. Citing Tostan as a best practice, they discuss how these factors interact with processes of social change and are critical to understanding why and how communities abandon such practices.

Innovation for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality

2009: International Center for Research on Women

The movement to end FGC in Senegal, and Tostan’s role in the movement, is cited as one of eight innovations that promote women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Public Health

2009: Center for Global Development

Tostan is highlighted for its innovative programs in the effort to eliminate FGC.

Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement


Citing an evaluation of Tostan’s programs in Senegal, this report emphasizes the importance of community engagement and respect in programs that work to end FGC. They also highlighted organized diffusion as an important component for success.

Coordinated Strategy to Abandon Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in One Generation

2008: UNICEF

In this report, UNICEF explains the current state of FGC in sub-Saharan Africa and uses Tostan’s community-led organized diffusion model as an example of best practices in the field. The report encourages other organizations to adopt the Tostan approach in their work toward ending FGC.

Long-term Evaluation of the Tostan Programme in Senegal: Kolda, Thies and Fatick Regions

2008: UNICEF, Macro International, the Center for Research in Human Development (CRDH) and the Population Council

The main objective of this evaluation was to assess the lasting impact of Tostan’s nonformal education program as implemented in Senegal from 1997-2000. The quantitative portion measured changes in the prevalence rates of FGC, the age of girls at first marriage, and improvements in the health status of mothers and children. In its qualitative component, the evaluation aimed to examine Tostan’s processes for implementing the program, to understand how villages organized their participation in public declarations to abandon harmful social norms, and to recordwomen’s opinions on the impact of the program. The evaluation was conducted for UNICEF under the direction of Macro International Inc., and carried out by Dakar-based teams from CRDH and the Population Council.

The report confirmed that in communities that had participated in the Tostan program and then publicly declared their intention to abandon FGC between 1998 and 2000, the prevalence of FGC practice dropped by 77% (in the 0-9 age group) over the course of 20 years. It also noted a 63% decline in the prevalence of FGC practice among neighboring communities involved in the public declaration. Among women with uncut daughters, the rate reporting that they did not intend to cut their daughter was three times higher in Tostan communities than in control communities. The rate for girls marrying under the age of 15 dropped by 48%. These findings were used as evidence to formulate the second national action plan for the total abandonment of FGC in Senegal by 2015 in partnership with the Government of Senegal’s Ministry of Family, UNICEF, UNFPA and additional governmental and nongovernmental partners. 

Girls Count: A Global Investment & Action Agenda

2008: Center for Global Development

This report cites Tostan as a best practice for its work on community development and FGC abandonment, and describes why and how to initiate effective investments that will give adolescent girls in developing countries a full and equal chance for rewarding lives and livelihoods.

Evaluation Of The National Action Plan For The Abandonment Of The Practice Of Female Genital Mutilation

2008: Republic of Senegal – Minister of the Family, National Solidarity, and Feminine Entrepreneurship et de la Microfinance

Several NGOs, associations, and networks intervene alongside the government to promote the total abandonment of FGM/C. Among these are: COSEPRAT, TOSTAN, Enda Action in Casamance, branch of ENDA SYNFEV, the Network of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, the Network of Journalists on Population and Development, the Network of Traditional Communicators, and the Senegalese Association for Family Well-Being (ASBEF). To varying degrees, they benefit from technical and financial support from partners from the international community (UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, UNIFEM, GTZ and other Foundations) for the implementation of their programs.

Abandoning Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: An in-depth look at promising practices

2006: Population Reference Bureau

This 63-page publication presents findings from surveys, questionnaires, and in-country interviews about three interventions promoting the abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). The goal of this publication is to provide information on these abandonment interventions based on four criteria set forth by the project’s collaborating partners: positive tangible impact; potential for replication; fostering of effective partnerships; and demonstrated sustainability. The researchers found that each of the projects outlined below had a positive impact in encouraging community awareness and abandonment of FGC.

Working with the Community for Improved Health

2006: Population Reference Bureau

Based on the (below) 2004 evaluation conducted by the Population Council, the authors of the article compared five community-based programs deemed effective for improving healthcare. Tostan, one of the five programs, was given the highest overall score for community participation as a result of efforts to work on health goals identified by the community.

The Tostan Program Evaluation of a Community Based Education Program in Senegal

2004: Population Council

The findings of this report state that “the impact of the Tostan program on women and men’s well-being has been substantial. The program has been able to bring about a social change within the community and to mobilize the villagers for better environmental hygiene, respect for human rights and improvement of health, as well as specifically reducing support for and practice of FGC. Extending the Tostan program to other areas of Senegal and to other African countries could make a difference to the well-being of women and of the community as a whole. “