6,000 women and girls in rural Senegalese villages will participate in Tostan’s Community Empowerment program thanks to a $3.9 million partnership with Global Affairs Canada. As Canada celebrates the “Year of Canada in Senegal,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Dakar, where he announced Canada’s partnership with Tostan on the project “When She Leads, Everyone Succeeds.” Tostan is excited to be entering the second year of this partnership with Global Affairs Canada.

According to the Canadian Ambassador to Senegal, Sébastien Beaulieu, this project “will contribute to reducing barriers to gender equality and make women and girls real agents of change.” Tostan’s project aligns perfectly with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy and the priorities identified in the Emerging Senegal Plan. This project consolidates Canada’s position as a leader in promoting rights and empowerment of women and girls in Senegal and Africa.

“We applaud Canada’s commitment to the empowerment of women and girls,” said Tostan CEO Elena Bonometti. “I’m truly inspired by rural communities members, in particular women, across Africa designing their own pathways to well-being and stepping-up to achieve their vision. Change works best when those most affected lead the way forward, which is what we are seeing in Tostan partner communities, and it is joyful to witness this.”

January 2020 launched a new phase of this project for Tostan, bringing the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) to 100 new partner communities in the regions of Kolda, Sédhiou, Tambacounda, and Kédougou. A national launch is scheduled Thursday, March 5, 2020 in Bignarabé in Medina Department Yoro Foulah, Kolda. The project begins with Community Empowerment Program (CEP), a non formal education program grounded in human rights. Over three years, participants reinforce their knowledge and skills in literacy and numeracy, project management, and community dialogue through the Kobi and Aawde modules. Tostan’s latest innovation to the CEP, Strengthening Democracy and Civic Engagement, supports collaboration between communities and locally elected officials.


When Tostan is invited into a village to begin the CEP, a trained facilitator is assigned to the village. The facilitator is fluent in the local language and is of the same ethnic group as the community members. Facilitators live in the village during the three-year program, getting to know community members both in and out of the classroom. Tostan pays the facilitator and provides the curriculum, and community members house the facilitator and provide classroom space. These mutual commitments encourage everyone to be engaged with the program even if they cannot participate in classes.

The CEP consists of two main parts: human rights-based education classes and the establishment of a Community Management Committee (CMC). CMCs are made up of 17 democratically-selected members, at least nine of whom must be women. Participation in the CMC helps women improve their confidence, leadership, and social standing by assuming prominent roles in their community.

The CMCs take forward the community’s vision for sustainable development and as community-based organizations, work with partners and others to meet community needs.

Each village runs two classes of 25 to 30 participants – one for adults and one for adolescents – that meet three times per week over the course of the program. By holding separate classes for the two groups, Tostan ensures that both the youth and older community members can participate and contribute comfortably in the classroom while gaining the tools and confidence to actively apply what they learn in their community. Most participants have never been to formal school, or dropped out at an early age.

Tostan draws on modern non formal education techniques as well as traditional African oral traditions like theater, storytelling, dance, artwork, song, and debate. Presenting information in ways that are relevant and engaging leads to a stronger commitment to human rights and community well-being.

Part of Canada’s celebration of the “Year of Canada in Senegal,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Dakar, where he announced Canada’s partnership with Tostan on the project “When She Leads, Everyone Succeeds.” Pictured with Tostan Founder and Creative Director, Molly Melching.