The training of staff remains a critical component of Tostan’s work. This includes everyone from national-level coordinators to community-level facilitators who implement the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) across six countries.


Recently, eight supervisors in Faranah, Guinea—three with specialties in social mobilization and five pedagogy experts—along with representatives from five partner NGOs were trained in teaching techniques for Cell Phone for Literacy and Development (CPLD) efforts.

The involvement of Guinean partner organizations in Tostan activities is part of organized diffusion—a strategy to reach as many people as possible within and across social networks. These NGOs, once trained on the Tostan model, are able to implement human rights-based activities in their own partner communities. This contributes to the critical mass needed to drive change toward positive social norms.

This week-long CPLD training covered 23 sessions focusing on the basic elements of the mobile phone, the concept of a phone menu and icons, how to send and receive messages with a cell phone, the benefits of text messages, and how to use the phone’s calculator. These practical exercises were then put into a broader context across many other potential needs, such as using a cell phone for social mobilization, social networking, health services, the environment and sanitation, and income generating activities.


For example, Mama Conde, a 68-year-old participant and Community Management Committee (CMC) member, received her first cell phone during her community’s CPLD training. She mastered her new phone with the support of her children and the community’s CEP facilitator. Now she can make and receive calls on her own. “I was able to use my phone to help an at-risk pregnancy. My nephew’s wife, who was late into her pregnancy, complained about her stomach hurting. Sensing that the time of birth was near, I called the midwife of the district hospital of Faranah to tell her I was coming to the hospital with a pregnancy-related emergency.”  As the midwife was not on duty that day at the hospital, she asked Mama Conde to bring the pregnant woman to her house, where she was able to successfully deliver the baby. “I am proud to have helped my nephew’s wife give birth in good conditions, thanks to the phone Tostan offered to the CMC.”


Practical sessions with examples such as Mama’s story, allowed Tostan supervisors to be better immersed in the subject matter and techniques for CPLD facilitation. They, in turn, trained 40 facilitators the following week.


As a way to keep the trainees on their toes, the daily facilitator was selected at random and was in charge of leading that day’s sessions. Because of the necessity to prepare in advance of each day, the facilitators became better acquainted with the content of the CPLD.

Cell phone use in West Africa, as well as around the world, is becoming more prevalent with each passing day. While the ability to write and read messages for work, to communicate with loved ones, to call when you’re in need, or to build your network for social and entrepreneurial advancement may be taken for granted by some, it is an important and now increasingly available skill to many rural communities in the region. Mama and other Tostan participants demonstrate that basic training in these skills can make a monumental difference in day-to-day life and long-term well-being.


Contributions from Mouctar Oularé