Molly Melching is the Founder and CEO of Tostan. She has lived and worked in Senegal, West Africa since 1974 and has dedicated her life to the empowerment of communities at grassroots levels.
Molly’s early experiences working with children in Dakar and living in a rural village enforced her beliefs that many development efforts were not addressing the true needs and realities of African communities. In collaboration with community members, Molly began to develop a new type of learning program that actively involved both adults and adolescents by using African languages and traditional methods of learning. Their efforts grew throughout the 1980s, leading Molly to found Tostan in 1991.
Tostan is an organization whose innovative grassroots education model—the Community Empowerment Program (CEP)—engages communities for three years in cross-cutting themes of democracy, human rights, problem-solving, hygiene, health, literacy, project management skills and parental education.
Molly is highly regarded for her expertise in non-formal education, human rights training, and social transformation. Her work with Tostan has brought her international recognition for contributions to results in many areas of development which include, reductions in infant and maternal mortality, widespread school and birth registration, the emergence of female leadership and the abandonment of female genital cutting and child/forced marriage in over 7,500 communities across eight African countries.
Last year alone, Molly Melching and Tostan were awarded the Jury Special Prize in Individual Philanthropy from the BNP Paribas Foundation, as well as the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights.
Tostan has also received Sweden’s Anna Lindh Human Rights Award (2005), the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize (2007), the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Price (2007), and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2010). Tostan was featured in 2009’s Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and in 2012 and 2013 was named one of the Top 100 Best NGOs by The Global Journal.