Senegal – A brief post…

I woke so early this morning and finally decided to just get out of bed and write a few words about this amazing week. Seven days ago we, my 13 year old daughter and I,  landed in Dakar, Senegal with the intention of learning more about how social change happens. And learn we did. Our knowledgable and compassionate companion for this journey was Molly Melching, founder of TOSTAN. We spent time in their offices in both Dakar (International Headquarters) and Theis ( Country Headquarters) , meeting the incredible staff team who makes it all happen, and even having lunch Senegalese style, which means on a mat surrounding one big shared bowl of Ceebu Jen.  We spent hours talking about their ‘Theory of Change’  (TOC) and then went to two villages where that theory was born. One of the many things I love about this organization is that fact. Molly did not come with her own ideas on how to strengthen a community, but the ideas were birthed from spending time in villages and witnessing what worked and what did not.
It is my last day in this magical country and we are soon to go to a park to see some animals, have one more  bowl Ceebu Jen, one more walk on the beach, one more of everything so some quick thoughts that I will be sure to write about:
  • I now truly understand how important it is to understand the Theory of Change (TOC) of the organizations I am supporting.  I need to not only ask the question and have a clearly articulated answer, but see how that is proven out by their results.
  • Understanding Social Norms is so so so so so important. Tostan is based on this fundamental understanding which is so powerful and so unusual. I intend on doing so much more learning in this area. CRITICALLY important.
  • Blame and shame really does not work when trying to create positive change.  If we truly want to improve the lives of women and girls around the world we need to get this, big time!
  • Girls Education. Over the past few years we have been hammered with the importance of girls education as being a solution for global poverty. Though this is certainly true, I now see how complicated it is. I heard a story that I cannot wait to share that brought this to life. The point is that it is NOT just about access.
  • How a model based on HUMAN RIGHTS is so powerful. ( and what makes Tostan so different) The people in the village kept coming back to this and it was key to getting men involved.
  • The difference between charity and social change philanthropy.
  • About community. I witnessed such a powerful commitment to the common good. There are approximately 15,000 villages in Senegal with an average population in the few hundreds. Oh my what they could teach us.

Off to see some animals….

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