Author: Aimee Molloy
Published: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Harper One, A Division of Harper Collins Publishing
Source: Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for a complimentary copy of However Long the Night. Receipt thereof bears no influence over my opinion nor this review.
The story of how one of the “most powerful women in women’s rights” (Forbes) is paving the way to a world with human dignity for all.
However Long the Night is the extraordinary story of one woman’s determination to create a movement toward change, and a better future, for millions of girls and women across Africa. Molly Melching grew up in the Midwest but was called to explore the world outside her hometown when she arrived in Senegal in 1974. There, she quickly grew invested in the fate of the Senegalese women she met. Based on her experiences living in a remote African village, she founded Tostan, an organization dedicated to empowering African communities by using democracy and human-rights-based education to promote relationships built upon dignity, equality, and respect. She forever changed her life and the lives of those touched by Tostan.
Unlike many Western organizations that have tried to transform various African cultures from the outside, Melching, who was named as one of the “150 women who shake the world” by Newsweek and Daily Beast, understands that true change comes only from within. Tostan’s groundbreaking strategies have led to better education for the women of rural Africa, improved health care, a decrease in child/forced marriage, and declarations by thousands of African communities to abandon the centuries-old practice of female genital cutting.
However Long the Night brings together Melching’s riveting personal journey with the stories of the Senegalese women and men who found the courage to lead this movement. This book is a testament to the fact that the connections between women can lead to a better world.
"Molly Melching saw a deeply disturbing but deeply entrenched practice and refused to accept that it couldn't be stopped. Her relentless efforts are proof that commitment and partnership can drive transformational change." Hillary Rodham Clinton
Such a statement from Hillary Clinton, while it hints at the monumental task that one woman set out to accomplish, it also conveys the worldwide acknowledgement that Molly Melching has achieved for the accomplishments she was instrumental in bringing forth in Africa.
Always intrigued by other cultures, Molly Melching loved to travel. In October of 1974 she made the journey that would change her life and the lives of many many more. Travelling to Senegal Africa as an exchange student with the intention of attending the University of Dakar for a six month program, she became friends with Ndey, who was from a small village in Africa. It was while she was visiting with Ndey and her family there that she learned of female genital cutting (FGC). This was the beginning of her real journey.
Molly soon learned that the best way to affect positive change in a land that was deeply set in tradition and customs was through an education program. "I have learned many lessons during the decades I've been doing this work," Molly says, "but none as important as this: if you want to help empower people to positively transform their communities and their lives, human rights education is key. For many years, our education program did not include discussions on human rights. We were successful, but it was only after introducing human rights learning that an amazing thing happened. I can't explain it. It felt like magic."
Molly does not readily accept credit for the positive changes in the villages of Africa. She prefers to allow the women of the villages to tell their story. Upon telling the author, Aimee Molloy this, she invited the author to go to Senegal to see for herself and that is just what the author did.
Seeing the isolated villages in a land so incredibly dissimilar to her own, Aimee found it incredible that a woman of thirty-two (Molly's age at the time of the author's visit), would leave everything she knew to live there. The joy Molly experiences amongst the villagers and the mutual love they have for one another is evident. It is because Molly truly cares for each individual and respects them and their customs, that she approached cautiously in terms of educating the villagers. Upon education, she was able to open communication amongst them with her, each other, their husbands and their spiritual leaders. Once they learned of vaccinations, diseases, how to properly care for injuries and more and of their rights as human beings; they became aware of the dangers of FGC, understanding that the hemorrhaging, the infections, years of problems and sometimes death were not attributed to bad spirits but rather to the procedure of FGC. Understanding brought about communication and then change. Seeing support from local spiritual leaders and the World Health Organization, the organization of Tostan (headed by Molly) was able to affect positive changes for the women and for generations to come.
The work is still ongoing but it is a labour of love for Molly. It took a great deal of personal education and patience, not to mention courage, but this one woman has been instrumental in changing a nation. Isn't that incredible?
One person can make a difference.
Meet the Author:
Aimee Molloy has collaborated on seven books, including with Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari on Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival and with Pam Cope on Jantsen’s Gift: A True Story of Grief, Rescue, and Grace. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master’s degree from New York University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.