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Corporate Buzz: Nike Foundation Funding for Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program

By: Smita Gaith, Women Deliver

The Nike Foundation continues its commitment to the Girl Effect and the health of girls and women by funding Tostan’s Community Empowerment Programs

Tostan is an international grassroots organization. The Community Empowerment Program is a community-based effort that makes use of the power of social networks to promote knowledge and skills sharing. The program was created with the intention of targeting the most vulnerable in the country: rural girls and women and embraces a holistic and participatory approach.

The body of the program is a highly structured curriculum which discusses elements of social empowerment and elements of literacy and economic empowerment. The curriculum encourages communities to try to understand and evaluate the challenges in their lives, and actively address them.  Tostan believes this proactive behavior promote the human development of community participants, enabling them to design, implement, and sustain community-lead activities.

There are two phases to the program curriculum. Kobi is a 10-month phase which includes 98 sessions focused on dialogue and exchange, since many participants do not know how to read or write. These sessions include modules on Democracy and Human Rights and Responsibilities; Problem-solving; Hygiene; and Health.  Aawde is an 18-month phase which introduces literacy-related modules: Pre-literacy and literacy skills, with the use of mobile phones and SMS as reinforcement; mathematics and use of calculators; Project Management; and Workbook Review, which focuses on knowledge-to-action workbooks to reinforce Kobi module skills as they relate to Aawde modules).

The Community Empowerment Program now specifically focuses on shifting gender roles and norms for girls. As part of the curriculum, community members engage in role play, problem-solving classes, and inter-village meetings for teachers and community facilitators. The program aims to bring villagers together to change long-standing norms and increase gender-equitable attitudes and behavior toward girls. The program has been so successful in Senegal that, with revisions, it is currently being implemented in eight other sub-Saharan African countries (Djibouti, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Somalia).

With support from the Nike Foundation and UN agencies, Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program has improved dialogue on spacing births and use of contraceptives, accelerated a 70% drop in female genital cutting prevalence and a decrease in violence against women, and among other accomplishments, has had a statistically significant impact on the increase in literacy rates.

The project is currently also being evaluated by the International Center for Research on Women, and in the past has been evaluated by Population Council, UNESCO, and others. More information about those evaluations is available online.

More information about Tostan’s Community Empowerment Programs is available on their website.

Flickr photograph via nebedaay.

Entry Comments

  1. Good effort. A long way has gone in ensuring the welfare of the community and Nike is doing a great job by funding them. Long way to go and more corporate must come forward to be a part of this.

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