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Molly Melching

Founder and Creative Director, Tostan

Skoll Awardee


Molly Melching is the Founder and Creative Director of Tostan. Having lived and worked in Senegal since 1974, Molly has received international recognition for her groundbreaking educational programs. Melching’s early experiences in Senegal reinforced her beliefs that many development efforts were not addressing the needs and realities of African communities. In collaboration with Senegalese villagers, Melching developed a new type of education program that actively involved both adults and youth by using African languages and traditional African methods of learning. Their efforts grew throughout the 1980s, leading Melching to found Tostan in 1991.
The Tostan Community Empowerment Program (CEP) is a scalable, cross-cutting reference model at the global level for community-led development and large-scale social transformation. Implemented in local languages, the CEP engages community members in learning and reflecting on their values and vision for the future. By empowering communities to lead their own development, Tostan has catalyzed a grassroots movement in West Africa for the promotion of human rights and the abandonment of harmful practices, including female genital cutting (FGC) and child marriage. Recent post-program modules include Peace and Security and Early Childhood Development.

Molly was CEO of Tostan for 26 years and led a transition process to welcome a new CEO to Tostan on September 1, 2017. Molly and the Tostan program have received numerous international awards and results include women's leadership, more than 8,000 communities in eight African countries abandoning FGC and child marriage.