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However Long the Night: Molly Melching's Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph

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In However Long the Night, Aimee Molloy tells the unlikely and inspiring story of Molly Melching, an American woman whose experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found Tostan and dedicate almost four decades of her life to the girls and women of Africa. This moving biography details Melching's beginnings at the University of Dakar and follows her journey of In However Long the Night, Aimee Molloy tells the unlikely and inspiring story of Molly Melching, an American woman whose experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found Tostan and dedicate almost four decades of her life to the girls and women of Africa. This moving biography details Melching's beginnings at the University of Dakar and follows her journey of 40 years in Africa, where she became a social entrepreneur and one of humanity's strongest voices for the rights of girls and women. 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. 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.


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In However Long the Night, Aimee Molloy tells the unlikely and inspiring story of Molly Melching, an American woman whose experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found Tostan and dedicate almost four decades of her life to the girls and women of Africa. This moving biography details Melching's beginnings at the University of Dakar and follows her journey of In However Long the Night, Aimee Molloy tells the unlikely and inspiring story of Molly Melching, an American woman whose experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found Tostan and dedicate almost four decades of her life to the girls and women of Africa. This moving biography details Melching's beginnings at the University of Dakar and follows her journey of 40 years in Africa, where she became a social entrepreneur and one of humanity's strongest voices for the rights of girls and women. 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. 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.

30 review for However Long the Night: Molly Melching's Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vilo

    If you are only going to read one book this year (other than scriptural texts) make it this one. This is the true and fascinating story of how an American woman ended up in the middle of a sea change in opinion on female genital cutting in Senegal, spreading into other areas of Africa. This is not, as some blurbs seem to indicate, the story of a Westerner who managed to persuade another culture to do what is right. It is the story of a Westerner who deeply loved the people of Senegal, lived amon If you are only going to read one book this year (other than scriptural texts) make it this one. This is the true and fascinating story of how an American woman ended up in the middle of a sea change in opinion on female genital cutting in Senegal, spreading into other areas of Africa. This is not, as some blurbs seem to indicate, the story of a Westerner who managed to persuade another culture to do what is right. It is the story of a Westerner who deeply loved the people of Senegal, lived among them and responded to what she saw as a need (education for children). As she pursued his goal, she made sure to listen carefully to what villagers wanted to learn, because she had seen so many aid groups that did not listen to or even involve the local people. She made many mistakes, but was open to learning from them and had created an environment where the people had enough trust to assume it was a mistake and communicate with her so that she could correct it. However, Molly Melching herself would say that it is not her story, although she was privileged to be part of it. It is a testament to the power of what an understanding of one's worth and "God-given human rights" can do for a people. With that understanding, the women themselves were open to learning about possibilities for their lives and used new information they had received from a trusted source to make a change. I may have given too many spoilers. But read it anyway, because you will meet people you will be so grateful to know, people I personally thought the most unlikely on earth to receive my admiration. This book has implications far beyond the ending of one horrific tradition.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeannette

    One of those books that one reads, however long it takes to get through it. Yes, it was a bit overdone and tedious, too many descriptions of what Molly did and where and when and with whom. And yes, the work is worthy and helped many but somehow, the White Woman Victorious is too often the theme in books about developing, changing cultures. I want more Black, Colored, Underclass books about how these people cope and change themselves and their cultures.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I did not want to read However Long the Night because its subtitle hinted at another grim book about developing countries – a story I’d encountered, sadly, too many times. This is why we don’t judge books by their cover (or subtitle). However Long the Night illuminates a development aid success story. It also subtly criticizes today’s often failed approaches to development. It describes how infectious progress is when aid programs tap into existing social networks. Molly Melching found herself dr I did not want to read However Long the Night because its subtitle hinted at another grim book about developing countries – a story I’d encountered, sadly, too many times. This is why we don’t judge books by their cover (or subtitle). However Long the Night illuminates a development aid success story. It also subtly criticizes today’s often failed approaches to development. It describes how infectious progress is when aid programs tap into existing social networks. Molly Melching found herself drawn into these networks when she arrived as an exchange student in Senegal in 1974. And she never left. Eventually she founded Tostan, an educational network dedicated to defending human rights and, today, ending female genital cutting. She did this with a complete dedication to respecting local circumstances and culture, winning the trust of many traditional tribes often hostile to western aid organizations (thus her insistence on the less judgemental “cutting” instead of “mutilation”). Today Tostan is the organization others in the region emulate. So However Long the Night turned out to be a book I did want to read. It ended up as a good news story that offers proven ways to support developing countries. Follow me on Twitter:@Dr_A_Taubman

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Molly Melching spent six months in Senegal on a graduate school semester abroad program. That experience was life-changing and resulted in her staying for the next 40 years. She founded Tostan which is a human rights based program enabling women to learn health care and empowering them in their communities. It doesn’t come in and say “you need to change”. It presents the information and allows the women to dialog and make the decisions as a community. Part of the program speaks to the issue of Molly Melching spent six months in Senegal on a graduate school semester abroad program. That experience was life-changing and resulted in her staying for the next 40 years. She founded Tostan which is a human rights based program enabling women to learn health care and empowering them in their communities. It doesn’t come in and say “you need to change”. It presents the information and allows the women to dialog and make the decisions as a community. Part of the program speaks to the issue of Female Genital Cutting – a deeply entrenched tradition. As a result, at the time the book was written in 2013, over 5,000 villages had made declarations to end the practice. The program has spread to neighboring countries and other parts of Africa with tremendous success. Found this on Amazon because of my having read/rated *The Blue Sweater*. Both are books about NGO work done in Africa from the perspective of empowering the locals and working with the infrastructure already in place. Neither books goes in with a heavy-handed "what you're doing is all wrong, you should be doing this instead" and I appreciate that. This one addresses a much more sensitive issue, and yes, it does explain exactly what is done in the FGC procedure. But what's amazing is the results. According to the book, this tradition is so deeply a part of the local culture that it is taboo to even talk about it. Molly's team found a way to present the health risks (believed by the locals to be the result of evil spirits) and then allow the women to dialog over time. Molly never pushed for the declaration - that came from the village women themselves. The program format has been expanded to address literacy and child development. This is a well-written book that shows there is good being done in the world by individuals with no sense of seeking the glory for their efforts.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christina Dudley

    Wow! A really inspiring, moving book about a woman finding a home in Senegal and kicking off a movement that has changed thousands of communities through the communities' initiative. Tostan comes to villages offering educational modules for women: literacy, human rights declarations, infant health, and women's health. By doing so, they give women the words to address their own culture and traditions, with surprising results for longtime practices like child marriages, Female Genital Cutting, and Wow! A really inspiring, moving book about a woman finding a home in Senegal and kicking off a movement that has changed thousands of communities through the communities' initiative. Tostan comes to villages offering educational modules for women: literacy, human rights declarations, infant health, and women's health. By doing so, they give women the words to address their own culture and traditions, with surprising results for longtime practices like child marriages, Female Genital Cutting, and wife beating. Brava to Molly Melching for her single-mindedness (must have been very tough to be her daughter Zoe) and lifelong dedication, and to the brave Senegalese women who spoke up in the face of opposition from women and men alike, including family members. The principles Tostan espouses apply to any cultural practices that ultimately do more harm than good: if one person decides to change, she faces ostracism, but if the social network together resists it, the cultural change has a chance. Nice companion read to HALF THE SKY.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tanis Buckton

    Truly inspirational!!! A definite surprise. This is a story of courage, belief in the perceived impossible, commitment and willingness to try whatever it takes to change the status quo. The world needs more Molly Melching's and yes Molly your mom would be so proud. Truly inspirational!!! A definite surprise. This is a story of courage, belief in the perceived impossible, commitment and willingness to try whatever it takes to change the status quo. The world needs more Molly Melching's and yes Molly your mom would be so proud.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Peterson

    Shouldn’t have read this on vacation because now I’m ready to go back to work. Very motivating. Another great story that proves how important dignity is in development work.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I was quite shocked by how much I enjoyed this book. I usually don’t go for biography or book about Africa, but this one called to me and I read it. I think it is a book everyone should read at least once in their life. The story follows the life of Molly Melching and how she brought the knowledge of human rights to numerous villages throughout rural Senegal. Molly is originally from the U.S. and moved to Africa in her early twenties. She stayed because of how welcome and at home she felt, someth I was quite shocked by how much I enjoyed this book. I usually don’t go for biography or book about Africa, but this one called to me and I read it. I think it is a book everyone should read at least once in their life. The story follows the life of Molly Melching and how she brought the knowledge of human rights to numerous villages throughout rural Senegal. Molly is originally from the U.S. and moved to Africa in her early twenties. She stayed because of how welcome and at home she felt, something she had never found anywhere else. After studying and working as a translator, she became obsessed with how to get education into the rural areas of Senegal where it was gravely needed to help maintain and encourage the improvement projects that were being put in place by NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization). She had several incarnations of organizations before founding Tostan – primarily setting up a local community center through the local Peace Corps then working with her (then) husband to establish a local education program for the village of Saam Njaay. Between these two organizations, she developed a teaching model that met the needs and cultural traditions of the rural community, allowing them access to basic information such as reading, writing, and hygiene. When she finally broke out on her own and developed Tostan, she used what she had learned to develop an educational program that brought knowledge to the participants. Not only did the program teach reading and writing, but they were taught in connections with core ideas set up in modules – hygiene, basic health, leadership skills, and project development. After gaining success, she was prompted by receipt of funding to include a module on human rights and women’s health, including the dangers of FGC (female genital cutting) which was a widespread practice in Senegal. This last module was developed and presented with great care to be non-judgement and non-confrontational, simply presenting information that described the rights of women as outlined by the United Nations and gave the women information on their bodies they greatly wanted to know. This module had an unexpected result. As the women grew in their belief in their rights and themselves, the communities started to change as women demanded their rights. THe most stunning result was the decision by different villages to discontinue FGC, which caused anger and dismay with other villages. This led to the discovery of social norm connectivity and how members of a group will decide together. As an educator and a woman, I found this book highly informative. Not only did I get an overview of life in Senegal, but I learned more about my rights as a woman and innovative educational practices I hope to someday use in my classroom. I thought it did a wonderful job of not only discussing Molly’s life, but also the different things she and her assistants learned over the years and the amazing stories shared by the brave women and men in Senegal who are attempting to bring an end to FGC in the country, and to spread the knowledge across borders. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially women and educators. It also gives you a glimpse into a life we cannot imagine in the United States and is a great way to learn about a mindset completely foreign to us. It definitely ranks on my “needs to be read” list for someone who will take the time to appreciate what they can learn from it. https://bookmouseblog.wordpress.com/2...

  9. 4 out of 5

    MA

    I thoroughly enjoyed this uplifting, inspirational story about Molly Melching's work in Africa and the creation of Tostan, an NGO. Tostan's mission is to empowering African communities by leveraging human-rights based education to drive sustainable development and positive social transformation. Melching’s work in partnership with key African mentors and colleagues has created a better future for millions of girls and women in Africa. Tostan’s most famous accomplishment is the work that led to n I thoroughly enjoyed this uplifting, inspirational story about Molly Melching's work in Africa and the creation of Tostan, an NGO. Tostan's mission is to empowering African communities by leveraging human-rights based education to drive sustainable development and positive social transformation. Melching’s work in partnership with key African mentors and colleagues has created a better future for millions of girls and women in Africa. Tostan’s most famous accomplishment is the work that led to nearly 5,000 Senegalese village councils to declare their abandonment of the deeply entrenched, centuries-old tradition of female genital cutting. Melching has shown the world that patience, commitment and partnership can drive transformational change. I am in awe of Melching and her African counterparts for their determination and courage. Their success in Senegal has allowed Tostan to expand to other countries in Africa. This is such an amazing success story!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Herta Feely

    I can't say enough good things about this book and about Molly Melching. Reading this, I was inspired to do more in the world. In the 1980s I co-founded a non-profit dedicated to saving children from "accidental" injuries, work that was fulfilling in large part because it was making a difference in the world. Now I'm a writer and I often don't get that same lift. However, Aimee Molloy's book pushed me to consider what else I might do. Not only is this a fascinating story, but a reminder that we I can't say enough good things about this book and about Molly Melching. Reading this, I was inspired to do more in the world. In the 1980s I co-founded a non-profit dedicated to saving children from "accidental" injuries, work that was fulfilling in large part because it was making a difference in the world. Now I'm a writer and I often don't get that same lift. However, Aimee Molloy's book pushed me to consider what else I might do. Not only is this a fascinating story, but a reminder that we all need to do our part.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shona

    Interesting story, not very well written.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dej

    Inspiring. An NGO that seems to make sense.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    LOVED it! Time to go out into the world and make a difference!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Ondrus

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was so inspirational! Molly Melching's story of working in Senegal, founding the NGO Tostan, and spurring the end of FGM in Senegal is amazing. I loved that this woman wears boubous and speaks Wolof. Her approach was of entering into conversation with the Senegalese, versus the stiff and formal relations that dominated development work in the 1970's. In 1974 Melching came to Dakar for a study abroad and has lived in Senegal since then. Melching was inspired in her work when in 1993 the This book was so inspirational! Molly Melching's story of working in Senegal, founding the NGO Tostan, and spurring the end of FGM in Senegal is amazing. I loved that this woman wears boubous and speaks Wolof. Her approach was of entering into conversation with the Senegalese, versus the stiff and formal relations that dominated development work in the 1970's. In 1974 Melching came to Dakar for a study abroad and has lived in Senegal since then. Melching was inspired in her work when in 1993 the U N adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Noteworthy is that Senegal ratified CEDAW in 1980 and "put it into effect in 1985" (120). There is a discussion of the terminology of FGM, FGC and the UN's choice of FGM, pgs. 175-176 Melching advocated the term FGC as FGM inferred intentional harm and was offensive to villagers.] Melching asked village women what their needs were; they responded they wanted education and to know about their own health. For example, malaria was believed to come from mangoes (93). Melching educated on the transmission of germs through an ingenious lesson whereby she put perfume in a bowl of water and had everyone dip their hand in the water. She explained how one did not see anything there, but one knew something was there, just like germs. In 1995 some of the Tostan women approached Melching about the need to educate on FGM; Melching hesitated and felt conflicted as an outsider. However, she built a module on Human Rights and women's reproductive health. In 1997 a village in Thies made a public declaration against FGM. By 2002, 392 villages publicly declared ending cutting (204). As of 2013, over 5000 Senegalese villages have publicly declared against FGM. When the women learned that many women in the world do not practice FGM they were surprised. They were empowered to learn about their human rights and as a result became leaders. Also, when they learned the scientific health consequences of FGM their opinions on FGM changed. Lastly, when Imams confirmed that FGM was not written in the Koran or part of Islam, their perspectives on FGM further changed. Melching realized the strong community values and work ways. Thus, she saw it was necessary for community consensus in order for large change (i.e. ending FGM), so she encouraged the women to talk with first the men in their communities, the religious leaders, their relatives in the neighboring villages. Many men did not even know what the genital cutting entailed- how it was done- what was cut. They then learned about the health consequences. The taboo around sex meant a silence on this subject. Most inspiring was how Oureye Sall was herself a cutter (practictioner of FGM) who had cut hundreds of girls. This career was lucrative and prestigious for her; however, she could not continue in it after learning about the damages of FGM. She became one of the biggest educators and advocates against FGM for Tostan. Also Demba Diawara (a respected elderly man from Keur Simbara village) is another excellent enlightenment story. Melching had been working with him and consulting with him. However, when he heard about Tostan's work on FGM, he visited her in her office to tell her to stop. She asked him to come back to her after he did three things first: 1. talk with the women in his village about the cutting 2. talk with doctors about the health consequences 3. talk with imams. He went and did this, changed his opinion, and then came back to tell Molly he wanted to talk to villages, educating them (158-161). In January 13, 1999 Senegal made FGM illegal. Melching and Tostan staff spoke with the government before they made it illegal, urging them to hold off on legislation because they believed they were making more progress from the communities rather than top down. Indeed they were right because the day after the law was passed, 100 girls were cut in the Kedougou region in protest (200). Women's resistance to un-supportive men is also presented. In Fouta women's voices and democracy from other casts were not supported. The women were frustrated by the lack of support by the men in their community. The women in this region refused to support male relatives (as protest) in a tradition where the women usually gave money and food (209). Gerry Mackie a scholar on the ending of foot binding in China with game theory (Schelling convention) connected with Tostan and was excited to see public declarations against FGM; he foresaw the soon eradication of FGM before he even learned about Tostan's activities. Mrs. Alicia Archibald Little moved to China in 1887 and got involved with ending foot binding. By chance she stumbled upon a community that did not bind its women's or girl's feet. She was surprised. She asked the village people why they did not bind the feet and they said that they decided as community to end this suffering tradition. Mrs. Little understood how important collective decisions were and took this as a methodology. She founded a movement of reform through education around 1895. 1. She taught that women elsewhere did not bind their feet 2. taught the benefits of natural feet & the health detriments of bound feet 3. forming natural-foot societies that pledged not to bind and not to allow their sons to marry women with bound feet (179-183). By 1911 foot-binding was basically gone (182). Tostan's approach is "to approach people--always in a peaceful, nonaggressive way, determined to find solutions rather than focus on the problems"(201). Melching and Tostan have won numerous awards. The WHO chose Tostan as a model for ending FGM in 2000. Melching was called by UNICEF to work in Somalia for ending FGM. As of 2013 over 5000 Senegalese villages have publicly declared against FGM. A new Tostan project addresses literacy through countering beliefs that it is bad to speak to one's baby. Melching was puzzled over literacy problems. For example: "In 2009, in eleven regions of Senegal, a study was conducted on the reading levels of children who had attended three years of formal school. The results were highly disheartening: only 7 percent of girls and 11 percent of boys evaluated were found capable of reading at a minimum level"( 246). She continued to question and dialogue with people and learned the root of the problem to be in early childhood development. Talking to one's baby was considered "crazy" and was taboo (247). Tostan educates parents about infant brain development and how talking to one's baby spurs on brain growth and applies social norm theory (247). The Tostan model is being applied in many countries, and Tostan takes on new initiatives.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Raffaella

    An excellent, touching and inspiring book, 100% recommended!! This is a tough, fascinating story that moves me to do something more for helping others, and teaches me to do so by listening and learning from others first. Molly Melching is a brave NGO founder who dedicated her life to educate and empower women in Senegal and other African countries. While many other NGOs failed in their effort to stop practices like female genital cutting, wife beating, child marriage or school dropout, Molly unde An excellent, touching and inspiring book, 100% recommended!! This is a tough, fascinating story that moves me to do something more for helping others, and teaches me to do so by listening and learning from others first. Molly Melching is a brave NGO founder who dedicated her life to educate and empower women in Senegal and other African countries. While many other NGOs failed in their effort to stop practices like female genital cutting, wife beating, child marriage or school dropout, Molly understood that she had to find out a different way of doing things. This wonderful story teaches us that if we want to change the world, we don't have to judge others or impose our values. We need to be extremely respectful, sensitive and patient. We have to spend time understanding their culture, their values, as well as their way of living and thinking. We have to involve the people in order to find out what they really need (which is usually not what we think they need). Finally, we can work together and empower people by offering them the knowledge they ask for, and let them free to come to their own decisions as a community. They will be the ones who will be willing to overcome their obstacles and transform their society! For me, this is the lesson and the beauty of this book, that I recommend to everyone ;)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    This book is so motivating & renews one's hope that a few people really can change the world for the better. It's detailed and intense so I didn't sit down and read it all at once, but alternated it with lighter subjects. I highly recommend it, especially if current events have you struggling to believe that people from different races and backgrounds can truly understand one another. This book makes you want to get out there and change things for the better! This book is so motivating & renews one's hope that a few people really can change the world for the better. It's detailed and intense so I didn't sit down and read it all at once, but alternated it with lighter subjects. I highly recommend it, especially if current events have you struggling to believe that people from different races and backgrounds can truly understand one another. This book makes you want to get out there and change things for the better!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chellsey Phillips

    Impactful and a must read. Truly leaves you not only inspired to have open eyes regarding issues effecting women around the world but also wakes you up to how engrained stigmas are in our lives. Passion, determination, and strength seep from the women described in the book. If you are able to handle an open portrayal of this controversial topic, this is an extremely beneficial read. The topic is much broader on the scale of social impact than previously believed.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    I absolutely love the Tostan model and am ridiculously inspired by what the organization has achieved through community led development. The book’s white savior complex focus on the white American founder was a bit distracting, but the story of what the organization has accomplished should not be over shadowed by that. It’s Truly magnificent.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This book should be required reading. A young woman has hopes and dreams that both startle and seperate her from people including her family. Molly spends most of her adult life in Africa. She addresses and changes the practice of women's genital cutting and women's rights. The story is unforgetable. I don't know when I have read and been so touched by a story. This book should be required reading. A young woman has hopes and dreams that both startle and seperate her from people including her family. Molly spends most of her adult life in Africa. She addresses and changes the practice of women's genital cutting and women's rights. The story is unforgetable. I don't know when I have read and been so touched by a story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten Halling

    However long the night An extremely engaging and inspirational account of one woman’s selfless journey to respectfully understanding other cultures and empowering people to make changes in their own understanding of human rights and gender roles.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Inspiring and well-written story of an idealistic young American woman who realized NGOs help most by empowering people to improve their own communities. And along the way, helped to end the tradition of FGC.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anaïs A

    Very inspiring journey of a group of people who succeeded in what nobody else could: challenging centuries-old traditions in West Africa -female genital mutilations- through both respect and boldness.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    didn't finish it. what she did was inspiring though! didn't finish it. what she did was inspiring though!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nadira Shahrul Baharin

    Masterpiece for humanitarian acts

  25. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Brown

    An interesting and informative book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Donna Hester

    Powerful story of what can be accomplished with perseverance, education and humility.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen Sofarin

    So inspiring and well written. Molly Melching is my new heroine. Her vision, patience, empathy and compassion are wondrous. Tostan as a way of reform and empowerment.

  28. 5 out of 5

    tylor

    Great book about perseverance and and humility! Loved it!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    What an amazing woman. Brought back memories of us being driven from The Gambia, through Senegal to Dakar for a long weekend. What a culture shock but we enjoyed every minute .

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aïsha Atherly

    Interesting story ... I just don't like the writing style. Took me ages to finish. Interesting story ... I just don't like the writing style. Took me ages to finish.

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