Tostan and Molly Melching Receive 2010 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship

The Skoll Foundation has recognized the nonprofit Tostan for its innovative work in bringing about positive, scalable community-led change in thousands of African communities.

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Molly Melching with the women of Malicounda Bambara, the courageous community that stood up to abandon female genital cutting in 1997

"Tostan is tackling a complex social problem with a sustainable, scalable solution."

Washington, DC (PRWEB) March 31, 2010

This morning the Skoll Foundation named nonprofit Tostan as a 2010 recipient of its prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, which celebrates innovative solutions driving large-scale change on critical issues around the globe.

The award recognizes the pioneering work of Tostan Executive Director Molly Melching and the 30-month Community Empowerment Program (CEP) she and Tostan have developed over the past three decades. Implemented primarily in rural regions of Africa, the CEP promotes basic education and increases community engagement in projects related to health and hygiene, child welfare, human rights and democracy, the environment, literacy, and economic development. The strategy includes implementing education programs in national languages, engaging extended social networks through a method of 'organized diffusion,' and supporting public declarations on collective action for positive social change, including the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage.

"Melching is a tremendous addition to the community of Skoll entrepreneurs and someone who has demonstrated those key characteristics of a successful social entrepreneur: inspiration, creativity, direct action, courage and fortitude," said Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. "Like all the organizations in our portfolio, Tostan is tackling a complex social problem with a sustainable, scalable solution".

According to Skoll, "a cornerstone of the program and a symbol of its success" has been the abandonment of the traditional practice of FGC by over 4,500 communities in Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Somalia. Other community-led successes include increased rates of school enrollment for girls, birth registration, as well as improvements in health, the environment, and economic opportunity, especially for women. Within the past two years, Tostan has successfully expanded its programs into new areas, including the Solar Power! initiative, which is training women to be solar engineers in partnership with Skoll laureate Barefoot College, and Project Jokko, which is using cell-phones to teach literacy and reinforce community-led outreach and development.

"We are so proud to have a prestigious organization like the Skoll Foundation recognize the important work undertaken by thousands of communities at the grassroots level," said Melching. "We are also thrilled to see recognition of Tostan's incredible staff and volunteers, especially our village facilitators, who have worked tirelessly for decades to support communities' efforts. And of course it is a day for all of our supporters and partners to celebrate with us. Without their consistent engagement over the years we would never have reached this moment."

Melching added that she is quite optimistic about some of the biggest problems facing Africa.

"For me, today is a day to look forward: we are seeing more and more that effective, sustainable, and positive change in Africa is no mystery. It is being led by communities themselves, based on their priorities and their capacities. By partnering with them and engaging them with respect and trust, we can turn almost all of today's challenges into tomorrow's solutions."

Tostan will be presented with the award at the Skoll World Forum taking place at Oxford University, April 14-16, 2010. The prize comes with a three-year, $765,000 grant to help support Tostan's efforts to scale up its human-rights based Community Empowerment Program (CEP) and reach thousands of new communities in East and West Africa.

About Molly Melching and Tostan

Having lived and worked in Senegal since 1974, Molly Melching has received international recognition for her groundbreaking educational programs that have led communities to affect life-transforming changes. Molly founded Tostan, a US501(C)(3) organization, in 1991.

Tostan is currently implementing its Community Empowerment Program in Djibouti, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and Somalia. As of January 2010 the organization was reaching over 57,000 direct participants through its programs, and hundreds of thousands more through community-led outreach. Tostan means "breakthrough" in the language of the Wolof peoples of West Africa.

For more information about Tostan, please visit http://www.tostan.org

About The Skoll Foundation

The Skoll Foundation was created in 1999 by eBay's first president, Jeff Skoll, to promote his vision of a more peaceful and prosperous world. Today, the Skoll Foundation drives large-scale change by investing in, connecting and celebrating social entrepreneurs and other innovators dedicated to solving the world's most pressing problems. The Skoll Foundation defines social entrepreneurs as individuals dedicated to innovative, bottom-up solutions that transform unequal and unjust social, environmental and economic systems.

The Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship is the foundation's flagship program. There are currently 66 organizations represented by 81 remarkable social entrepreneurs in the program, working individually and together across regions, countries and continents to deliver solutions to the world's most challenging economic and social problems. The Skoll Foundation connects social entrepreneurs and other partners in the field via an online community at http://www.socialedge.org, and through the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. The foundation also celebrates social entrepreneurs through the work of flagship organizations such as the PBS NewsHour and the Sundance Institute, which help drive large-scale public awareness of social entrepreneurship and its potential to address the critical issues of our time.

For more information, visit http://www.skollfoundation.org.

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