On August 9, we had the pleasure of meeting with Judith Rowland, Head of U.S. Policy and Advocacy at Global Citizen, at our Tostan Senegal office. Discussions that day focused on grassroots action, which aligns with our community-led approach to sustainable development and Global Citizen’s vision of a world free from extreme poverty by 2030 thanks to the collective actions of Global Citizens across the world.

Malick Gueye, Communications Manager for Tostan Senegal, sat down with Judith to hear more.

Why did you choose to visit Tostan this week?

This week I am traveling with Cindy, who is the recipient of Global Citizen’s Curtis Scholarship. This scholarship is an annual award to support a student who is very engaged in the movement to end extreme poverty. While in Senegal, Cindy and I have explored many diverse organizations working on poverty issues. We’ve learned about water and sanitation. We’ve learned about global health. We’ve learned about girls’ empowerment and menstrual hygiene management. And then today, we had the opportunity to learn more about FGC and the work that Tostan is doing. So, in short, we wanted to see the whole ecosystem of organizations that are working on these issues. When we knew we were doing this trip we reached out to some of our partners, including Johnson & Johnson, to get recommendations of who we should connect with and speak to.

What had you heard about Tostan before coming?

We knew about some of your work, but not the full extent of what Tostan does. We read a lot about Tostan online prior to our trip and were very impressed.

I read also that Global Citizen is interested in supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. With what you have heard during this orientation on Tostan’s programs, does Tostan raise your expectations around being able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?

To see momentum on the Sustainable Development Goals, community focus is really important. In Senegal I’ve spent time with World Vision, who have very strong community-focused programs that empower community health workers and community grand-moms who can help advance the objectives of sustainable development in communities. There is a strong culture of community-based organizations within Senegal and it’s very exciting to hear what that looks like for Tostan. Secondly, for true sustainable development we have to focus on integrated approaches. It is very common for organizations to focus on specific issues of extreme poverty. It is imperative that we see that each of these issues are interconnected and integrated. The outcomes of work on health impact whether or not people have nutritious food, which in turn impacts what people are able to grow in their communities.

Speaking of integrated approaches, much of what Global Citizen does is centered on policy and advocacy—how do visits to partner offices and communities, like you had today, help you with your work?

My job is to ensure that the US government makes very smart choices about how they spend their money for development. So a lot of the work that I do is to speak up on behalf of Global Citizens who want more of our taxpayer dollars to go to things like global health, sanitation and programs of that nature. And then, in addition, a lot of my work is to help the US government craft policies that will benefit the world’s poor. Having the opportunity to see programs in action is very helpful for when I have these conversations with members of Congress and demonstrate the effectiveness of these programs.


Interview by Malick Gueye, Communications Manager for Tostan Senegal

Transcribed by Daniel Newton, Programs Assistant