Community Empowerment Program (Tostan)

UNICEF Winner
Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) uses a nonformal, human rights-based approach to education wherein it aims to empower communities with the knowledge and tools that will enable them to develop their own futures.
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Year launched: 
1991
Launch country: 

CEI Plus Status

Program Results Status
Monitoring and Evaluation Reporting
Primary Approach: 
Implementer: 
Tostan

Location Data

Geography type: 
Program Description: 

The three-year Community Empowerment Program (CEP) implemented by Tostan is designed to engage communities in conversations that will enhance their capacities and enable them to improve their social and economic prospects. The program hosts nonformal education classes for adolescents and adults, many of whom have not had access to formal schooling. It is facilitated by members who belong to the same ethnic group as program participants, and sessions are delivered in the language spoken by participants. Facilitators typically have a minimum of 8-10 years of education and receive further training from Tostan. They are paid $100 a month for their services and are housed and fed by the community.

The Community Empowerment Program is a human rights-based education program that aims to bring about transformative change by educating community members about their human rights and by empowering them to utilize this knowledge to bring about change. The CEP utilizes an innovative curriculum to achieve its aims. The curriculum is divided into two broad sections. In the first section, typically taught over a period of one year, participants learn about concepts related to human rights and democracy. Sessions are taught orally since most participants beginning the program cannot read or write. The Community Empowerment Program’s second section comprises of literacy and numeracy lessons and small project management training. Classes are taught in a participatory manner and include dialogue and consensus building. The curriculum is constantly modified based on participant feedback. Classes meet three times a week and are conducted in classrooms built by community members. Tostan has learned that once participants are made aware of their specific rights and entitlements they take a deeper interest in these issues and become advocates for themselves and for their communities. Many of the program participants have gone on to join politics.

As part of the CEP, Community Management Committees (CMCs) are also created and trained in project management and social mobilization skills by Tostan. CMCs are made up of 17 democratically-selected members, nine of which must be women. These committees take forward the community’s vision for sustainable development and as community-based organizations, work with partners and others to meet community needs.

Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program is closely aligned with the belief that every human being has the right to dignity. The organization is therefore invested in building the capacity of individual communities so they are empowered to design their own future path. 

Photo credit: Photograph by Bjorn Westerdahl (c) Tostan.