BookTalkUNA presents

Molly Melching's Journey to Help Millions of
African Women and Girls Triumph

Join us for an evening with

Founder and Executive Director of Tostan

Introduced by special guest
Former Executive Director of UNICEF


Thursday, May 2, 2013

6:30 p.m. | Reception
7:00 p.m. | Presentation
8:00 p.m. | Book Signing

Steelcase, Inc.
4 Columbus Circle (58th Street and Eighth Avenue)
New York, NY



UNA Members: FREE
UNA Student Members: FREE
Guests and Non-Members: $15

Reservations for this event are now CLOSED

Molly Melching saw a deeply disturbing but deeply entrenched practice and refused to accept that it couldn't be stopped. By working with entire communities in a true spirit of respect, she helped empower women and girls to end female genital cutting and to promote dignity and equality. Her relentless efforts are proof that commitment and partnership can drive transformational change. — Hillary Rodham Clinton

Inspirational and beautifully written, HOWEVER LONG THE NIGHT: Molly Melching's Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph is a passionate entreaty for all global citizens.

When Molly Melching arrived at the University of Dakar in Senegal to study in the fall of 1974, she planned on staying for only six months. Those six months would then turn into many decades, as she became deeply involved in humanitarian work. She founded Tostan (which means breakthrough in Wolof), an organization helping social and economic development in African communities through multidisciplinary education based on respect for human rights.

Author Aimee Molloy follows Melching's fascinating life helping the women and communities of West Africa, delineating her groundbreaking strategies that have led to more education for women, increased health care, human rights and greater awareness of the dangers of female genital cutting — a tradition that has been deeply entrenched within the culture. In coordination with the government of Senegal, Tostan is working toward the goal of eradicating the practice by 2015 and is on-track to enable it. Tostan's approach is to bring human rights-based education to a community and enable a community-led process of discussion and shared understanding to optimize practices of health, governance, education, project management and environmental protection. Through an outreach model called organized diffusion, villagers share their knowledge and decision-making with their extended family and social network, across neighboring villages and entire regions. Tostan understands that true change can come only from within.

In HOWEVER LONG THE NIGHT we see how this attitude empowers the communities of West Africa and how Melching's relationship with these communities not only brings about new outlooks on life but also profoundly affects Melching herself. Alongside Melching's story are the stories of the African women embracing Tostan's vision and breaking down cultural traditions that have been holding them back. The power of their transformative journeys, and those of millions of Africans who have been impacted by their work, comes alive on the page. This is the story of how lasting change can start with one woman and how the connections within a community and between communities can lead to a better world.

This book is published in partnership with the Skoll Foundation, dedicated to accelerating innovations from organizations like Tostan that address the world's most pressing problems.

Molly Melching has lived and worked in Senegal, West Africa since 1974 and has dedicated her life to the empowerment of communities at grassroots levels. Her early experience working with children in Dakar and living in a rural village enforced her beliefs that many development efforts were not addressing the true needs and realities of African communities. In collaboration with the villagers, Molly began to develop a new type of learning program that actively involved both adults and adolescents by using African languages and traditional methods of learning. Their efforts grew throughout the 1980s, leading Molly to found Tostan in 1991.

Tostan is an organization whose innovative grassroots education model — the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) — engages communities for three years in the cross-cutting themes of democracy, human rights, problem-solving, hygiene, health, literacy, project management skills, and parental education.

Melching is highly regarded for her expertise in nonformal education, human rights training, and social transformation. Her work with Tostan has brought her international recognition for results in many areas of development which include, reductions in infant and maternal mortality, widespread school and birth registration, the emergence of female leadership and the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage.

She received the Humanitarian Alumni Award from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1999, the Sargent Shriver Distinguished Award for Humanitarian Service in 2002, and Sweden's Anna Lindh Award for Tostan's work in human rights in 2005. In 2007 Tostan won the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the largest and most prestigious in the humanitarian field.

Read Molly Melching on recent milestone toward abandonment of FGC

Ann Veneman has a distinguished career in public service, serving as the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) from 2005 to 2010 and as the United States Secretary of Agriculture from 2001 to 2005. In 2009 she was named to the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list and she has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors.

At UNICEF she directed a staff of over 11,000 in more than 150 countries around the world. She worked to support child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all, access to clean water and sanitation and the protection of children and women from violence, exploitation and HIV/AIDS. She traveled to more than seventy countries.

As Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), she directed one of the most diverse federal agencies with a budget of $113 billion and 110,000 employees.  She also served as Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 1995 to 1999, overseeing the state agency responsible for the nation's largest agricultural producing region. From 1986 to 1993, she served in various positions in the USDA, including Deputy Secretary, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, and Associate Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service.

Ms. Veneman currently serves on the boards of directors for Alexion, Nestlé S.A., and The Climate Corporation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and The Trilateral Commission.

She is co-chair of Mothers Day Every Day and on the boards of the Close Up Foundation, Malaria No More and the National 4-H Council.  She is also a co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center initiative on Obesity and Physical Activity and on the advisory boards of BRAC, The FEED Project, Pencils of Promise, the Chicago Council's Global Agricultural Development Initiative, the Omega Women's Leadership Center, Living Goods, Runa Tea, Driptech and In 2012 she served as a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and the U.C. Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy.

She holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Davis; a master's degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley; and a juris doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Acclaimed author Aimee Molloy has collaborated on seven books, including with Pam Cope on the celebrated Jantsen's Gift: A True Story of Grief, Rescue and Grace. Her book with Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival (Random House, 2011), will be made into a major motion picture, directed by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. She holds a Bachelor's Degree from Duke University and a Master's Degree from NYU. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

Advance Praise from Reviewers

"Molloy offers a moving account of one woman's struggle to empower African women and challenge tradition…Reading like a novel, this book demonstrates the power of education and grassroots organizing." Publishers Weekly

"Melching's incredible journey from Illinois to Africa, from graduate student to great humanitarian, is paralleled by the journey of the countless women touched by her work: a journey to understanding, empowerment and human dignity." Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan


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