Writers, critics and publishers keep trying to refine their definition of a Jewish book, whether it’s a Jewish author, subject, or just sensibility. After meeting Molly Melching when she spoke at a breakfast sponsored by the American Jewish World Service, I’d vote to stretch the category. “However Long the Night,” which was written about Melching’s tremendous humanitarian work in helping African women, is essential reading – it’s a book about transforming the world.
“It’s better to find the way out than to stand and scream at the forest,’ a Wolof proverb, opens the book, written by Aimee Molloy, with Melching’s cooperation.
In 1991, Melching founded Tostan, an organization based in Senegal, dedicated to empowering African communities by fostering democracy and human rights-based education. Their work is built upon values of respect, equality and treating others with dignity. Tostan receives support from AJWS.
Melching’s efforts have led to improved education for rural women in East and West Africa, better health care, a decrease in child/forced marriage and declarations by thousands of communities to halt the practice of female genital cutting. As of January 2013, over 5000 Senegalese villages have publicly declared an end to FGC. Similar efforts are underway in seven other countries.
Since 1974, Melching has been working in Senegal, when she visited as a 24-year old graduate student on a study abroad program and fell in love with the country. Inspirational in her refusal to accept negativity, the award-winning Melching succeeds in working for change from the inside, devising community-led strategies that can be models for other regions.
We all have much to learn from “However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph” (HarperOne) about creating a better future.