Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

Teresa Healy

Second Advisor

Mokhtar Bouba


Senegal, a predominantly Muslim West African country, has demonstrated political stability, sustained a constitutional democracy, and maintained a pluralistic society since independence in 1960. Amidst this, there are several small groups of social organizers who are engaging in effective social change. Tostan, a regional INGO focusing on community empowerment through nonformal education, has been working in Senegal for more than 25 years and has reached more than three million people in West Africa. After completing Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), the social organizers have decided to travel from village to village educating and sensitizing others on what they have learned. Outside of West Africa, the rich experience of social mobilization and community organization in Senegal is hardly known among academics and social movement theorists.

This research explores how and why Tostan’s Social Mobilization Agents (SMA) do their work in rural Senegal. Using a grounded theory approach rooted in feminist epistemology, I participated in field observations and conducted several in-depth interviews with six SMAs, two men and four women. By creating individual portraits of their lives, we see them as whole persons made up of unique experiences. After having a close up look at their lives, we take a step back to look at the larger picture and see several reoccurring themes. From this research, academics, practitioners, and a larger global audience will better understand the motives and methods of social mobilizers in rural Senegal today. With these findings, one can continue the quest for more knowledge and/or attempt to replicate the methods of social mobilization elsewhere.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Studies


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