Coming Together to Help African Girls Create a Brighter Future (2023)

Alice Adja dropped out of school when she was 8 years old. Her parents could not afford to pay for her education and take care of her and her six siblings. At age 11, they sent her to live with an aunt in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, where she had a string of odd jobs. Alice is now 21 and works as a housemaid for an Abidjan family. But she has other ideas for her future. She wants to run her own business. Be her own boss. “One day, I will be a professional pastry chef,” said Alice. “I will have my own pastry store.”

Their aspirations, hopes, and dreams are more often than not swept away as they move from helping out with chores in their household to running their own. They often have to drop out of school, marry soon after reaching puberty, and become young mothers -- a vicious cycle that diminishes their economic potential and impacts their health.

Coming Together to Help African Girls Create a Brighter Future (1)

“One day, I will be a professional pastry chef, I will have my own pastry store." Alice Adja, Côte d'Ivoire. Photo: © Sarah Farhat/World Bank

Alice Adja is among thousands of young women who have a new outlook on life thanks to the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend project (SWEDD). The project is financed by the World Bank and implemented by the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. It aims to empower women and adolescent girls and increase their access to quality education and reproductive, child and maternal health services.

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The SWEDD is being implemented with technical support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) through $295 million in financing from the International Development Association (IDA), the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries.

The project mobilizes all of society to harness the tremendous economic potential of women, from religious leaders, legislators and health workers to mothers and husbands. “By helping girls develop income-generating activities or apply for jobs, we enable them to stand on their own feet,” said Sy Savanneh Syrah, who manages the gender component of the SWEDD project for the government of Côte d’Ivoire. “Women’s empowerment is not only beneficial for girls; it benefits their families, the community as a whole, and our country’s economy.”

It starts with keeping girls in school

In Niger, for example, just one in 10 girls completes secondary education. Girls from poor families drop out of school because of a lack of resources and the need to take care of their children, as they are often married and mothers at a very young age. SWEDD is making a difference in the lives of many of these girls, including 15-year-old Innayatou Souradji, who lives in Kiota, a village located some 100 kilometers from the capital city of Niamey. “My mother and grandmother never went to school because they got married too early,” she said. “I am fortunate to have received a scholarship to pursue my studies.”

Like Innayatou, more than 100,000 other girls from poor families are receiving support from the project in the form of school kit, scholarships, housing and academic support. “Learning to write is not easy,” Innayatou said. “But I will get there.”

"My mother and grandmother never went to school because they got married too early. I am fortunate to have received a scholarship to pursue my studies."

Coming Together to Help African Girls Create a Brighter Future (2)

Innayatou Souradji

SWEDD Beneficiary

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It takes changing mindsets

Securing the buy-in of religious and community leaders is critical to ending discrimination, violence against women, and the high incidence of early marriages.

“Early marriage is a complex issue and we have addressed it in a manner that respects Islam,” said Imam Telmidy, a religious leader in Selibabi, Mauritania. “Islam protects the dignity of men and women. Our interpretation of the age of marriage for girls is wrong.” Telmidy is one of 200 religious and community leaders who are conducting outreach activities across the country with project support, to show that early marriages and unspaced pregnancies are not Muslim practices.

he said, stressing that many adolescent girls in their communities have died for that reason.

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Coming Together to Help African Girls Create a Brighter Future (3)

Infographic: SWEDD: Investing in Girls’ Emopowerment Allows Them to Contribute to the Development of Their Country

The project also uses a radio show to share messages on the benefits of girls’ empowerment. After hearing them, Lemeima mint El Hadrami refused to allow her daughter to be married at an early age. “I was really moved by the messages on the radio,” she said. “I do not want my daughter to experience the same difficulties that I did. I would like her to go as far as possible in her studies, to have a good job -- a job that will allow her to enjoy a decent standard of living. She could become a minister, a doctor or a midwife.”

Tilmidy and his counterparts want to be agents of change. “We discuss and share our knowledge of Islam and our experience by going door to door or during Friday prayers and people are starting to understand and respond.”

Coming Together to Help African Girls Create a Brighter Future (4)

“I refused to have my daughter get married young for a simple, good reason: I don’t want her to go through the same difficulties that I did when I was young.” Lemeima mint El Hadrami, Mauritania. Photo: Vincent Tremeau/World Bank

SWEDD is also supporting a one-of-a kind “school” – welcome to the Husbands and Future Husbands School in Mamboué, a village in western Burkina Faso. Waimbabie, a married father, regularly attends the discussion workshops where he along with 15 other men and two project facilitators discuss a variety of topics related to family planning and household life. “Ever since he started going to the Husbands School, our relationship has improved significantly," said his wife, Martine. The spark, she added, has been rekindled. He now fetches water and wood and helps around the house, and for the first time ever, he wanted to be present for the birth of their last child.

Today, more than 1,640 Husband Schools have already been established in all SWEDD countries.

Allowing women to plan their pregnancies

Maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the Sahel are among the highest in the world. This is often due to the fact that pregnant women, especially in rural areas, lack access to adequate health services to give birth. Fatoumata Diallo has witnessed these challenges in her home village of Sebougou in Mali. While driving on a highway, she once picked up a pregnant woman walking home from a prenatal checkup more than 10 kilometers away, a very long distance for any pregnant women to walk. When Fatoumata heard about the midwife training offered by SWEDD, she didn't hesitate to apply. After completing the training, she decided to open her own private practice, with the help of the project, and is now able to save lives.

According to SWEDD Project data on Mali, in 2016 there were 2,657 midwives and obstetric nurses in the entire country, a ratio of 1.4 midwives for every 10,000 inhabitants. That ratio falls well below the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended standard of 23 health workers per 10,000 inhabitants. In a country where 38% of women have their first child by the age of 18, this not only poses a risk for young mothers, but also for their children. The mortality rate among newborns of adolescent girls is 50% higher than for adult women.

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So far, the SWEDD has helped train over 6,600 midwives across the implementing countries.

Coming Together to Help African Girls Create a Brighter Future (5)

Infographic: SWEDD: Investing in Girls’ Empowerment Allows Them to Contribute to the Development of Their Country

“People here have been very happy since I opened my practice in 2016,” said Fatoumata. “In addition to basic care, we provide prenatal and postnatal care and we deliver babies, which has helped reduce the maternal and infant mortality rate in our community.”

The first woman to give birth at her clinic was so happy that she named her daughter after Fatoumata.

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"The first woman to give birth here was so happy she named her daughter after me." Fatoumata Diallo, Mali. Photo: © Vincent Tremeau/World Bank

The bottom line: Healthier, educated women boost productivity

One of the priorities of the SWEDD empowerment strategy is to offer vocational training to women to help them earn a living and increase their household income. “When we were offered a chance to learn how to be electricians, we were afraid. At first, we thought that electricity, with all those wires, was not for us,” said Adouia Brema.

As she spoke, she slowly and carefully connected the last electrical wires of the solar panel that she was installing for a customer in her village of Am-Timam in Chad. Along with several other women in the village who have trained to be electricians, the mother of eight was not intimidated and has even discovered a passion for solar energy, which provides low-cost lighting in homes. The women’s small business is thriving and now Adouia is training other women in the village. “It is important for women to work and earn money so that they can meet their own needs and help cover household expenses,” she said, adding that a husband’s income is not enough. As of today, almost 100,000 women and girls have already received training in all the countries where the project is being implemented.

The project also created safe spaces to give out-of-school adolescents a second chance. Every week, some 102,600 girls acquire basic knowledge and meet with a mentor, often women who are very active in the community. They discuss issues that are not often talked about at home like reproductive health and gender roles. Through these safe spaces, the girls also acquire the confidence needed to take their destiny into their own hands.

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“The girls were embarrassed at first,” recalled Koné Awa, a mentor in one of the safe spaces in Abidjan. “But now it is quite interesting to watch the impact of the training, especially the workshop on self-esteem.” This is where Alice Adja gained the confidence to think big and develop her dream of becoming a pastry chef. In the meantime, she sells sweets to her classmates. An inspiration that has been cultivated by this mentorship and is helping her cover her school transportation expenses.

The Sahel and beyond: Investing in people

“The project’s impact will ripple across the entire society over the long term, reducing infant mortality and chronic malnutrition rates, boosting productivity and household incomes, and accelerating the demographic transition For these reasons, we see the project as an indispensable poverty reduction tool and a priority for the World Bank.”


What is the best way to promote women's empowerment? ›

Here are the essential ways to empower women:
  1. Boost her self-esteem. ...
  2. Shut down the negativity. ...
  3. Support Women-Run Businesses. ...
  4. By giving proper education. ...
  5. Giving job opportunities. ...
  6. Be Open and Honest. ...
  7. Signal-boost other women.

What is the future of Africa? ›

Projections show that by 2050, Africa's population will double. By 2100, one in three people on Earth will be African. This means that, by the end of the century, sub-Saharan Africa—which already has an extraordinarily young population—will be home to almost half of the young people in the world.

What qualities makes a woman empowered? ›

6 Qualities of an Empowered Woman
  • She knows her worth. ...
  • She is approachable and amiable. ...
  • She knows how to communicate effectively. ...
  • She shows vulnerability. ...
  • She never stops learning. ...
  • She stands up for her beliefs and challenges the status quo.
Sep 15, 2021

What makes a powerful woman? ›

A strong woman stands up for herself.

“She is not afraid to share her ideas and thoughts, regardless of what others think.” “She speaks her heart and her mind.” “She respects herself enough to stand up for herself, the causes she believes in, and the welfare of others.”

What does Africa need to improve? ›

More importantly, African countries need to undertake bold domestic structural reforms to scale up the supply capacity of the region by improving digital connectivity, reforming fundamental institutions of legal frameworks, such as contract enforcement and property rights protection, maintaining stable and competitive ...

Why is Africa important to the world? ›

The continent has 40 percent of the world's gold and up to 90 percent of its chromium and platinum. The largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum and uranium in the world are in Africa. It holds 65 per cent of the world's arable land and ten percent of the planet's internal renewable fresh water source.

What challenges will Africa face? ›

  • Elections and Governance. (Guy Peterson/AFP via Getty Images) ...
  • Trade. (Corbis via Getty Images) ...
  • Digital economies. (Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images) ...
  • Security. (Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP via Getty Images) ...
  • Climate change. (Getty) ...
  • Migration. (Eduardo Soteras/AFP via Getty Images. ...
  • China-Africa relations. ...
  • COVID-19 recovery.
Jan 25, 2022

What happens when girls are empowered? ›

Empowered girls mean healthier families.

And closing the gap in the unmet need for family planning for the 225 million girls and women who want to delay or avoid pregnancy but aren't using modern contraception would reduce maternal deaths by 67% and newborn deaths by 77%.

What qualities make a woman powerful answer? ›

She can make decisions, has the strength to take risks and can learn from her mistakes. A powerful woman needs to be confident, creative and persevering. She is the symbol of power and strength. She is prone to put her life at risk for her loved ones.

What are three 3 benefits of empowerment? ›

The benefits of employee empowerment

Employee empowerment can instill greater trust in leadership, encourage employee motivation, lead to greater creativity, and improve employee retention ー all of which ultimately results in a better bottom line.

What is a woman's greatest power? ›

"The most powerful thing about being a woman is our incredible capacity for resilience. Women have faced generations of injustice. We have lived with the brutal realities of being second-class citizens.

What is a strong woman quotes? ›

A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong.” “I'd rather regret the risks that didn't work out than the chances I didn't take at all.” "You must love and care for yourself because that's when the best comes out.”

What makes a woman special? ›

Women are special for many reasons. They are the most sensitive, caring and maternal people in the world. Women are very sympathetic towards people and things. They use both sides of the brain and men don't.

What are the basic needs of Africans? ›

Food, safe water, housing, education, and health care are examples of basic needs. Wants are desires that can be satisfied by goods and services.

What are Africa's values? ›

Other African cultural values and practices include the sense of hospitality, good relations, sacred and religion, sanctity of life, respect for elders and authority, morality, language, proverbs and time, and so on. Almost all of the African cultural values are derivative of the African communitarianism.

What part of Africa needs the most help? ›

Another problem that many impoverished people in Africa face is lack of proper nutrition, or lack of food altogether. This is especially the case in the Horn of Africa (the peninsula in the east, including Somalia and Ethiopia), where 11 million people are in urgent need of food assistance.

What are 5 things about Africa? ›

Quick Facts About Africa
  • Continent Size: Second largest in the world.
  • Estimated population: 877 million people.
  • Largest Country: Algeria - 919,595 square miles (was Sudan, 968,000 square miles)
  • Longest River: Nile, 4,160 miles.
  • Largest Lake: Victoria, 26,828 square miles.
  • Tallest Mountain: Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, 19,340 feet.

What are three things about Africa? ›

Top 10 Facts about Africa
  • It is the second largest continent of the world. ...
  • There are 54 countries in Africa. ...
  • Africa has the world's largest desert – sort of! ...
  • It is home to the world's longest river, The Nile. ...
  • Most of the world's diamonds come from Africa. ...
  • Africa makes 70% of the world's cocoa beans.

What are 3 things Africa is known for? ›

Africa is known for Mount Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, Nile river, and game reserves such as the Maasai Mara and Serengeti. Africa is also famous for its diverse ethnic groups, Egyptian Pyramids, the Sahara Desert, Mining, and for being the second driest, and the poorest continent in the world.

What is the biggest problem facing African youth? ›

African youth are facing many challenges. These include poverty, inadequate education, unemployment, and lack of opportunity. African youth are also at risk of becoming victims of crime, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases.

What are two of the biggest problems facing Africa today? ›

Sub-Saharan Africa faces one of the most challenging economic environments in years, marked by a slow recovery from the pandemic, rising food and energy prices, and high levels of public debt.

What are the three major problems faced by African people? ›

Top challenges facing Africa today
  • Poverty. ...
  • Poor Education. ...
  • Ill Health. ...
  • Violence. ...
  • Hunger. ...
  • Sustainable agriculture, nutrition and food security. ...
  • Access to financing. ...
  • Economic growth rate is far too low.
May 5, 2016

How do you promote empowerment? ›

10 ways to boost empowerment in the workplace
  1. Delegate work and responsibility. ...
  2. Set clear boundaries and expectations. ...
  3. Ensure employees have proper resources. ...
  4. Be flexible. ...
  5. Focus on the end results, not the process. ...
  6. Include employees in special projects. ...
  7. Be open to input and innovation.
Sep 5, 2019

What are the five strategies of empowerment? ›

5 Ways to Empowering People
  • “Give employees generous boundaries” Give people (through delegation) the freedom to make key decisions, and with it comes accountability. ...
  • “Listen intently” ...
  • “Believe in your employees” ...
  • “Earn trust” ...
  • “Give employees time”
Nov 7, 2022

How can we promote and protect women's rights? ›

Eight ways you can be a women's rights advocate today, and every...
  1. 1) Raise your voice. Jaha Dukureh. ...
  2. 2) Support one another. Faten Ashour (left) ended her 13-year abusive marriage with legal help from Ayah al-Wakil. ...
  3. 4) Get involved. Coumba Diaw. ...
  4. 5) Educate the next generation. ...
  5. 6) Know your rights. ...
  6. 7) Join the conversation.

What are some empowerment strategies? ›

Here are 10 strategies that you might want to consider and implement to empower your people.
  • Link to company vision. ...
  • Set clear boundaries. ...
  • Balance direction and support. ...
  • Delegate the entire project. ...
  • Allow autonomy. ...
  • Provide encouragement. ...
  • Allow opportunities to learn and demonstrate skills. ...
  • Foster collaboration.
Nov 11, 2020

What are 3 examples of empowerment? ›

Employee empowerment examples for big businesses
  • Involve employees in company decisions. ...
  • Provide training courses for managers. ...
  • Use employee recognition awards. ...
  • Allow autonomy in decision making.
Sep 12, 2021

What are empowering messages? ›

25 Motivational quotes to empower you:
  • Don't be afraid. ...
  • Hold the vision. ...
  • Only I can change my life. ...
  • Everything you want is just outside of your comfort zone. — ...
  • Stop being afraid of what can go wrong and start being positive about what can go right. — ...
  • Never regret a day in your life.
Oct 7, 2020

Why is it important to empower people? ›

Empowerment fosters engagement and enfranchises employees in unprecedented ways. Not only do peers and employees become more confident and work-ready, but they also become more committed, strategic, intuitive, creative, and analytically competent. We can't ignore the power of people.

What are the core values of empowerment? ›

Vision, cohesion and autonomy

The fundamental aim of empowerment is to restore meaning to work, based on a clear vision, mission and set of goals. Additionally, it can foster a team spirit while encouraging initiative and risk-taking.

What makes you feel empowered? ›

Personal empowerment is about taking control of your own life, and making positive decisions based on what you want. It's closely linked to attributes like self-esteem and self-confidence , but true empowerment comes when you convert intention into action.

Why is it important to stand up for women's rights? ›

According to the UN, “gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is not just a goal in itself, but a key to sustainable development, economic growth, and peace and security”. Research has shown this to be the case – society gets better for everyone when women's rights are upheld and taken seriously.

How would you promote women's right in your community? ›

8 ways to change the course for women's rights
  1. Raise your voice. ...
  2. Volunteer. ...
  3. Start a fundraiser. ...
  4. Attend marches and protests. ...
  5. Donate to women's movements and organisations. ...
  6. Shop smartly. ...
  7. Challenge events. ...
  8. Become a corporate sponsor.
Apr 16, 2019

Why is it important to raise awareness about women's rights? ›

Gender awareness raising aims to promote and encourage a general understanding of gender-related challenges, for instance, violence against women and the gender pay gap. It also aims to show how values and norms influence our reality, reinforce stereotypes and support the structures that produce inequalities [2].

What are the six empowerment skills? ›

Types or dimensions of empowerment

There are six types or dimensions of youth empowerment namely; psychological, community, organizational, economic, social and cultural.

What are the six importance of youth empowerment? ›


Production of skilled manpower. Development of the attitude of self-reliance. Creation of job opportunities. Reduction of social miscreants in society.

What are the four aspects of empowerment? ›

The literature on the four dimensions of empowerment (i.e., meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact) is reviewed and theoretical logic is developed linking the dimensions to specific outcomes.


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