Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Tostan + Catapult + You = Economic Empowerment for Senegalese Women

October 18, 2013

We have been watching the advent of crowdfunding for the last few years, and although Tostan’s program requires funding at a consistent level for three years (the duration of our Community Empowerment Program), we were intrigued as to how we could potentially use this new style of fundraising.

When our partner, Johnson & Johnson first told us about Catapult, a new crowdfunding platform specifically dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, we couldn’t resist this unique chance to host a project and we saw it as an opportunity to rally support for some of our most critical smaller projects that contribute to the reach and sustainability of our program. 

In early 2013 we launched our first Catapult campaign– building financial independence in rural Senegal. This campaign, which was generously matched by Johnson & Johnson, aimed to give communities the opportunity to develop on their literacy, math, and project management skills they gained during the Tostan program by managing small community grants and contribute to economic growth within their communities. The grants would be provided to the village’s Community Management Committee (CMC) – a group of 17 democratically selected women and men who manage and lead community development initiatives which is set up at the start of the Tostan program – to then distribute as $25, $40, and $50 loans to women for income-generating activities or as collective funds for community projects. These grants and subsequent projects help ensure the sustainability of the Tostan program by providing start-up capital for activities that will positively impact the community in the long-term.

The project slowly gathered supporters, but really kicked off when Catapult and Chime for Change, a global campaign founded by Gucci and powered by Catapult to raise funds and awareness for girls’ and women’s empowerment, hosted The Sound of Change Live concert. 50,000 people attended the concert and were able to donate the value of their ticket to the Catapult project of their choice. Tostan’s specific project was generously promoted by one of the performing bands, HAIM. Shortly after these events, our project to economically empower women in rural Senegal was fully funded!  Through our partnership with Catapult and Chime for Change, we were able to reach new audiences, which allowed us to attain our goal.     

We are looking forward to sharing the successes of that project as the work on the ground gets started. And we’ve already launched our second Catapult campaign in late August. With this new effort, Catapult users are able to help purchase four motorcycles that will be used by Tostan program supervisors to improve access to empowering education to thousands of community members in hard-to-reach areas of West Africa for years to come.  I love that through this platform, we are finding partners from all over the world to help us provide more communities with the opportunity to strengthen their skills and knowledge, no matter how remote their location.

Our experience with Catapult is a great example of how different people and organizations, which may not have connected before, can find each other along shared themes and collectively raise awareness and support for projects that can make a long-term impact. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Catapult and with those who have so generously contributed to our projects. 

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