Molly Melching is the founder and executive director of Tostan (meaning "breakthrough" in the Wolof language), an NGO whose mission it is to empower African communities for sustainable development and social transformation in the respect of human rights. Ms. Melching's early experiences as an exchange student and Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal in the 1970s enforced her beliefs that many development efforts were not addressing the true needs and realities of African communities. Ms. Melching and a team of Senegalese cultural specialists began to develop a new type of education-for-development program that engaged communities by working in their own language and using traditional methods for learning. Their efforts grew throughout the 1980s, leading Ms. Melching to found Tostan in 1991. Tostan and the Tostan Community Empowerment Program, now operating in seven African countries and 17 national languages, is an internationally recognized model for community-led development and communication strategies. Ms. Melching and Tostan received Sweden's Anna Lindh Human Rights Award in 2005, the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize and a UNESCO Literacy Prize in 2007. Ms. Melching and the women of Senegal were together voted the 2007 OneWorld Person of the Year.
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