Molly Melching has lived and worked in Senegal, West Africa since 1974. She is the founder and executive director of Tostan, a nongovernmental organization that has developed an innovative model for development in which communities are leading large scale social movements for positive change.
Through Tostan's 30-month Community Empowerment Program, thousands of villages have collectively abandoned deeply entrenched harmful practices such as female genital cutting and child/forced marriage, all the while promoting positive traditions. Through song, theater, drawing, and poetry, participants discover and debate in their own language themes of democracy, human rights, problem-solving, hygiene, and health, while learning practical skills of literacy, SMS texting and project management. Participants then reach out to share new information and engage members of their social networks in important decisions effecting their lives.
Molly has been honored for her expertise in non formal education, human rights training, and social transformation. In 1999, Molly Melching was awarded the University of Illinois Alumni Humanitarian Prize and in 2002, the Sargent Shriver Distinguished Award for Humanitarian Service. Molly and Tostan received the Anna Lindh Human Rights Award (Sweden) in 2005. In 2007, Tostan received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize and the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize. In 2010, Tostan received the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.