During a Town Hall Meeting with the U.S. State Department during her first few weeks in office, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held up Tostan as a model for how “grassroots work supported by the United States Government” can affect real change in communities around the world.

While Secretary Clinton did not mention Tostan by name, when asked about protecting human rights, and women’s rights in particular, Secretary Clinton recalled a visit she made to Senegal as First Lady, when she met with Tostan Founder and Executive Director Molly Melching, several Tostan staff members, and program participants. She concluded her remarks at the meeting with a story about Tostan because, she said, “it made a big impression” on her.

Secretary Clinton highlighted Tostan’s belief in community empowerment and collaboration, specifically citing the way Tostan engages elders in its mobilization and awareness-raising efforts. She was impressed that this approach “started to change attitudes and behaviors and even laws.”

Secretary Clinton concluded with a call to action to all in the State Department based on the success she observed from Tostan’s model, saying “we have to be creative in our diplomacy and our outreach…and be respectful and humble about others’ life experiences and norms.” She continued by referring once again to State Department collaboration with organizations like Tostan, saying, “with the right attitude and with the patience that is called for… we can make more progress than just by issuing edicts, pointing fingers, and making demands.”
Follow this link to read the transcript from Secretary Clinton’s Town Hall Meeting.