Diane Gillespie connects sleep strategies to community development in West Africa

Since retiring in 2012, IAS Emerita Professor Diane Gillespie continues to find fulfillment in her work with Tostan, a West African organization that empowers communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights. Tostan’s ground-breaking approach has catalyzed a grassroots movement for the promotion of human rights and the abandonment or harmful practices, such as female genital cutting (FGC) and child marriage. Gillespie has been involved with Tostan since 1991 when it was founded by her sister, Molly Melching, as chronicled in However Long the Night by Aimee Molloy.

Now Gillespie has connected Tostan to her a newest venture – sleeplessness. Personal experience led Gillespie to explore cognitive behavioral approaches to sleep disturbances and write the book Stories for Getting Back to Sleep, a collection of sleep scenarios designed to help people return to sleep in the middle of the night. On Tostan Stories, Gillespie connects her discovery of effective sleep strategies to the “awakening” experienced by Tostan participants finding empowerment through human rights. “It didn’t take me long to connect the different ‘awakenings.’” writes Gillespie. “I could publish the sleep stories as a fundraising project for Tostan — wellbeing for those struggling to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night without sleep medication and wellbeing for the hundreds of communities asking for Tostan’s education program.”

Diane and participants in the first training seminar at the Tostan Training Center, 2015

Diane and the participants in the first training seminar at the Tostan Training Center, 2015

Gillespie regularly discusses Stories for Getting Back to Sleep and was interviewed on New Day Northwest in July. Upcoming readings include these venues: Horizon House (Sept 25), University Bookstore Mill Creek (Sept 27) and The Neverending Bookshop (Oct 13). All are invited!