Catalyst member Tostan’s primary focus is rural community members who lack access to formal and non-formal education. Women, men, and adolescent girls and boys participate in Tostan classes in rural villages in five West African countries (Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, The Gambia and Senegal). Typically, they have either stopped or never attended formal school. To date, Tostan estimates that it has impacted the lives of more than five million individuals.
Tostan is celebrating its 30 year anniversary in 2021, and has more than 530 staff members.
Social entrepreneurs are known for finding solutions for society’s problems. What is the problem you are addressing, and what is the solution?
The fundamental problem Tostan seeks to solve is the lack of access to empowering formal and non-formal education, in the context of poverty and deeply entrenched harmful social norms. This lack of education perpetuates an environment that fails to adequately prepare and empower individuals -especially women and girls – and communities to develop, realise and sustain their own vision for community well-being. Our solution is an empowering education curriculum that supports local community members, especially women and girls, to define and achieve their vision for sustainable development. Working within their extended family and social networks and in partnership with local governmental resources and other key partners, emerging local leaders and community-led networks are bringing about transformative changes in line with their vision for community well-being.
We work to advance economic citizenship, for that we address problems such as the digital gap, financial exclusion and lack of opportunities, jobs and livelihoods, especially for women and youth. We seek to solve them through programs implemented in partnership with governments, social organisations and companies and through the development of digital solutions, training and support attending to the needs of each community.
What do you see as the benefit of your Catalyst 2030 membership?
Tostan’s community-led, holistic ways of working have naturally led the organisation to seek community with others who see the limits imposed by our current ways of working and think constructively about the global systems needed to really drive sustainable, locally-owned social change. Catalyst2030 offers Tostan the “dream” opportunity to connect with a large number of like-minded partners at all levels and across a range of sectors, and to do so on a platform that prioritises action, learning, and relentless creativity.
Being a member of Catalyst 2030 has led us to take our vision of systemic change to a more advanced level. We have also been able to meet and collaborate with other organisations working to achieve the SDGs, which has allowed us to deepen our understanding of the impact of working in partnerships and ideas that are being promoted in other parts of the world.
Are you collaborating with any other Catalyst 2030 members?
Tostan has collaborations with Dimagi, Orchid Project, WorldReader, Barefoot College, Spring Impact, and TechSoup, and also several other members. Tostan also has funding partnerships with several listed funders and participates actively in networks led by or featuring other members.
A recent and exciting collaboration is our partnership with WorldReader to share Tostan’s COVID-19 educational materials.
Speaking about COVID-19 materials, Tostan produced a short film on communities’ resilience beyond COVID in 2020. Help us share this great material: https://youtu.be/qX1gojVoen8!