Vulnerable young women and adolescent girls -especially poor, rural girls- are often cited as a key constituency for health and development initiatives. Unfortunately, many programs fail to reach them because they are harder to locate and more difficult to engage. These are girls who may never have enrolled in school, may not have identification documents, and may not hold formal jobs. They may have significant demands on their time from their family and may be caring for younger siblings, elderly relatives, or working informally to earn the family money.

Vulnerability: noun. “The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Oxford Dictionary

Unless the hardest-to-reach, most vulnerable girls are subject to specific recruitment efforts, they are likely to receive a disproportionately low, even negligible share of the benefits.

When determining whether a girl is vulnerable, Batonga considers:

  • Past access to education: Has this girl ever gone to school? Has she dropped out before completion? Is she behind one or more grades, based on her age?
  • Parental support/family stability: Does this girl live with only one or neither of her parents?
  • Marital status: Has she been married before the age of 18?
  • Motherhood status: Has she had a child before the age of 18?

In Benin, the majority of girls will never make it to middle school. School enrollment starts dropping dramatically at age 12. By age 14, only 6 out of 10 girls are enrolled in school. By age 19, a third of girls are already mothers. Additionally, women and girls face significantly more reproductive health vulnerabilities during puberty and adolescence than men and boys.

Benin’s high rates of child marriage or marriage before age 18 (as high as 77% in child marriage hotspots) compound these risks for adolescent girls.

School Enrollment, Marriage and Childbirth Rates by Age

Batonga’s goal is to ensure that we are reaching the young women and adolescent girls that are most in need and who are most often invisible. Our mission is to find them, provide them with social capital, and equip them with the financial skills and assets to escape the trap of intergenerational poverty and avoid having to make those survival decisions or use harmful survival strategies.