Molly Melching

Founder and CEO, Tostan

Skoll Awardee


Molly Melching has lived and worked in Senegal, West Africa since 1974 and has dedicated her life to the empowerment of communities at the grassroots level. Highly regarded for her expertise in non-formal education, human rights training, and social transformation, Molly’s experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found the NGO Tostan and spend four decades of her life working with African girls and women. Her inspiring story is the subject of a New York Times Bestseller However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph by Aimee Molloy.
In collaboration with villagers, Molly developed a new type of learning program in African languages. This innovative grassroots education model engages communities for three years in cross-cutting themes of democracy, human rights, problem-solving, health, hygiene, literacy, and project management skills. Tostan now operates in six African countries. Molly has gained international recognition, especially for Tostan’s efforts in spearheading the large scale grassroots movement for the abandonment of female genital cutting and child marriage. Molly and Tostan have received numerous awards, including a UNESCO Literacy Prize, the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the BNP Paribas Special Jury Prize and the Thomas J Dodd Prize for International Justice and Human Rights.