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Molly Melching

Founder and CEO, Tostan

Skoll Awardee


Molly Melching has lived and worked in Senegal, West Africa since 1974 and has dedicated her life to the empowerment of communities at the grassroots level. Molly’s early experiences 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 the villagers, 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’s program is an innovative grassroots education model—the Community Empowerment Program (CEP)—which engages communities for three years in cross-cutting themes of democracy, human rights, problem-solving, hygiene, health, literacy, project management skills and parental education. Tostan also has developed post-CEP programs on Early Childhood Development and Peace & Security.

Molly’s work with Tostan has brought her international recognition for contributions to results 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 in eight African countries.

Tostan and Molly have received many prizes including: the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights (2015), the Jury Special Prix in Individual Philanthropy from the BNP Paribas Foundation (2015), the Cecila Attias ‘Award in Action’ for improving health systems and maternal care (2012), the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2010), the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize (2007), the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Price (2007), and Sweden’s Anna Lindh Human Rights Award (2005). Molly is also the subject of the best-seller book "However Long the Night" by Aimee Molloy