APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Over the past 17 years, an emphasis on continuous participant feedback and external evaluations has allowed the Tostan Community Empowerment Program (CEP) to evolve and respond to the real interests, needs, and priorities of the populations it serves. Operating in local languages and implemented by Tostan-trained volunteer facilitators (who are from the same ethnic group as the host community), the current version of the CEP lasts 30 months and uses familiar and respectful means of communication such as discussion, dialogue, song, dance, theater, and poetry. The program empowers participants, especially women and girls, with knowledge, skills, and experience in many areas including democracy, human rights, problem solving, health, hygiene, literacy, numeracy, and micro-credit and management skills.
Tostan's innovative 'organized diffusion model' exponentially extends the impact of the program: participants 'adopt' and share program topics with friends and family members and with the community at large, which itself 'adopts' surrounding communities. Regional and national events, as well as careful coordination with diaspora communities, the government, local, national, and international media, all help to further spread knowledge and action, leading to systemic social transformation, covering entire ethnic groups and sub-groups.
The Breakthrough Fund committed to as a part of this Commitment to Action will deliver the Tostan CEP to 1,350 communities in six countries in West Africa. A new dimension of this project is that it will work across borders, selecting communities by ethnic group and social/family networks to connect new communities to existing socio-economic progress in Tostan's current and previous partner communities and their family and social networks. It also builds upon Tostan's 2008 Commitment to Action for literacy training via mobile phones, which Tostan will hopes to include in all 1,350 communities, though dependent on cell coverage in certain remote areas.
Note: A full description of Tostan's CEP and related topics can be found at www.tostan.org
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
Tostan expects to begin work in the new communities in January 2013. Expansion will occur in phases, both to better take advantage of social network effects and to allow for the most efficient use of Tostan's staff and resources. Estimated timing for expansion by country is shown below. Timing may vary depending on in-country conditions. As shown on the timeline, Tostan will have started three-year-long CEPs in 1,350 new communities by 2016 and will have finished all of the CEPs by 2018.
- NY, CA, Europe, elsewhere: prospective investment meetings with potential investors
- Finalization of partners
- Committed investors' summit in Senegal to finalize terms and reporting
- Staffing ramp-up and coordination
- Community selection and coordination
- Launch CEP, including trainings for all pedagogical and program staff in six countries
- Begin CEP programs in 250 communities in Senegal
- Begin CEP programs in 100 communities in Gambia
- Begin CEP programs in 100 communities in Guinea Conakry
- Begin CEP programs in 100 communities in Guinea Bissau
= Total of 550 Breakthrough Fund Communities participating in CEP in 2013
- Begin CEP programs in 300 communities in Mali
- Begin CEP programs in 100 communities in Mauritania
- Four CEP programs ongoing
= Total of 950 Breakthrough Fund Communities participating in CEP in 2014
- Complete CEP programs in 250 communities in Senegal
- Complete CEP programs in 100 communities in Gambia
- Complete CEP programs in 100 communities in Guinea Conakry
- Complete CEP programs in 100 communities in Guinea Bissau
- Two CEP programs ongoing
= Total of 950 Breakthrough Fund Communities participating in CEP in 2015
- Begin CEP programs in 150 communities in Gambia
- Begin CEP programs in 150 communities in Guinea Conakry
- Begin CEP programs in 100 communities in Guinea Bissau
- Two CEP programs ongoing
= Total of 800 Breakthrough Fund Communities participating in CEP in 2016
- Complete CEP programs in 300 communities in Mali
- Complete CEP programs in 100 communities in Mauritania
- Three CEP programs ongoing
= Total of 800 Breakthrough Fund Communities participating in CEP in 2017
- Complete programs in 150 communities in Gambia
- Complete programs in 150 communities in Guinea Conakry
- Complete programs in 100 communities in Guinea Bissau
= Total of 400 Breakthrough Fund Communities participating in CEP in 2018
Overall totals by country:
- Senegal: 250
- Gambia: 250
- Guinea Conakry: 250
- Mali: 300
- Guinea Bissau: 200
- Mauritania: 100
- Total of all countries: 1350
OBJECTIVES and KEY INDICATORS:
The practices of FGC and child marriage are reduced in at least 5,000 new communities across six West African Countries as measured by:
# of public declarations for the abandonment of FGC and child/forced marriage;
# of communities participating in the public declaration abandoning FGC and child/forced marriage;
# of inter-village meetings and public discussions about abandoning FGC and child/forced marriage;
% of school age girls retained in formal schools.
1,350 Communities in West Africa have the capacity address their emerging development needs and have increased democratic governance as measured by:
# of Community Management Committees (CMCs) established and functional;
# of CMCs with active sub-committees for Child Protection, Education, Environment, Health, Social Mobilization, Revenue Generating Activities, and Financial Management;
# of participating communities with socio-economic development action plans created through democratic processes;
# of CMCs that apply to become government registered Community-Based Organizations.
Local populations, particularly women and girls, in 1,350 communities and their social networks in West Africa are empowered to participate in and play leadership roles in their community's development as measured by:
# of women and adolescent girls with newly acquired skills on basic literacy, management, advocacy and knowledge of democratic governance;
# of women elected to key leadership positions in CMCs or public positions;
# of formal meetings between community members and local leaders/authorities that include women;
# of women and adolescent girls participating in savings-led micro-finance groups.
Efforts to improve the lives of girls and women in the developing world have often failed because many of the obstacles they face are the result of powerful and pervasive social and cultural norms. Female Genital Cutting, for example, is a social norm associated with marriageability and status. Every year, nearly three million girls and women in Africa are subjected to FGC, a dangerous practice that not only denies women and girls their basic human rights but also causes pain and suffering. The practice, however, is not intended to cause pain; instead, it is seen as necessary by parents wishing to ensure their daughter is seen as 'normal.' Even those who question such norms find that not conforming to the tradition stigmatizes and shames families and carries extreme consequences that prevent girls from participating in community life, putting families in a challenging position and thwarting efforts of groups seeking to end the practice. Similar challenges exist in relation to child/forced marriage, girls' education, and many other areas.
These culture and belief systems are also obstacles to certain development efforts. Well-intentioned groups have spent billions of dollars providing technical solutions to alleviate broader development problems around the world, only to find that their methods or solutions are at odds with existing cultural practices and norms, or that changes are unsustainable after projects end. Whether for girls, women, or entire communities, local ownership and leadership in development efforts have often been sorely lacking.
Over the past 20 years, Tostan has developed an approach to community development that uses a comprehensive education program to empower communities to lead their own development from within, allowing culture to support development, and allowing girls, women, and other marginalized groups to emerge as advocates and leaders for change in an environment that supports them. In many of the geographies in which it works, Tostan's work has led to the abandonment of female genital cutting and child/forced marriage, the empowerment of thousands of girls and women leaders, and the creation of community-led development projects in many areas including health, human rights, and education.
A secondary problem deeply interconnected with the main challenge of successful development is scaling successful models. Traditional grant-making mechanisms can mean organizations tie themselves to one or a small handful of donors, or build-up a costly internal capacity to handle multiple reporting requirements from dozens of investors, with major differences in time-scales, funding terms, and definitions of success.
In Tostan's case, the traditional growth models also carry severe programmatic consequences. Tostan's program lasts for three years but donors most often provide one-year grants. Tostan's program works best through family and social networks and across borders, but many donors have country focuses and are unable to support cross-border work. The program generates results across many different impact areas, but donors are often focused on only one.
The Breakthrough Fund proposes an alternative: a large investment of capital designed to fund growth and allow Tostan to take its work to the next level of impact. Investors will hold the organization accountable for the specific growth targets and outcomes defined by the terms of investment laid out in sections below, as finalized during final agreements prior to launch of the Fund. Investors also agree to a shared set of terms, including periodic progress reports on spending and results. The common reporting is based on clearly defined metrics tied to the plan.
This commitment seeks to scale up Tostan's proven CEP model, via the resources provided by the Breakthrough Fund, to empower tens of thousands of girls and women to become leaders and change makers while engaging their communities to become more democratic and capable of leading development projects on a wide range of issues. Most notably these women and communities will promote the abandonment of harmful practices such as female genital cutting and child/forced marriage.