The Batonga Foundation officially launched its program for adolescent girls and young women on Friday, July 29, 2022, at a ceremony held in the town of Natitingou, in the Atacora province of northern Benin. Key guests and members of the local community included municipal authorities, program participants and their families, and our regional partner Havre de Paix.
From Cotonou to Atacora
Partnering with the Mastercard Foundation, our team worked tirelessly to make the launch of Batonga’s programs in Northern Benin a reality. All of the preparations for this launch were accomplished with endless dedication from our entire team – headquarters in Cotonou and satellite offices in Central and Northern Benin. The team traveled from Cotonou (in the most Southern region of the country) and headed north to the village of Natitingou – a day-long trip of 10 hours by car! On the way, we made a few stops to visit our satellite offices in Bohicon and Savalou, the newest communities in Central Benin, where Batonga recently began activities. Each of these stops consisted of a full day of meetings with the local village chiefs and community members and giving presentations of the programs being implemented to strengthen and encourage support of the girls and young women in order to make a difference in their lives. Upon reaching Natitingou, the team met with Havre de Paix to complete the preparations for the ceremony, which was not entirely free of its own challenges. Sabine Kesso, one of the new community facilitators shared some of the difficulty she faced in mobilizing participants. “We work with some of the hardest-to-reach communities. These communities often do not have access to connectivity and are disconnected. To invite local partners such as village chiefs, we have sent messages that many have not read because of the lack of access to phones. We have to visit them in person in order to deliver our message,” said Sabine about the challenges.
In Atacora, young women and adolescent girls are marginalized, excluded from basic services such as access to education, healthcare, protection from gender-based violence, and access to the internet. They are susceptible to inequality and discrimination. These girls are mostly from isolated communities, such as those in northern Benin. Expanding our programs into northern Benin was an important step in our mission to provide the hardest-to-reach adolescent girls and young women with the knowledge and skills they need to be agents of change in their own lives and in their own communities. Our goal is to reach 12,800 girls and young women through our programs by 2025 working in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.
Ella Wama, Benin Country Manager, Fondation Batonga, said it best In her speech at the official launch of our programs in Natitingou, and explained to guests why the Atacora region was identified as an area ready for the expansion of Batonga’s programs. “Despite all these social injustices and gender inequalities, the girls and women of Atacora have potential that we must help transform into power, by supporting them to overcome these obstacles. Batonga is committed to the economic empowerment of women, bringing awareness to girls’ and women’s rights, the development of leadership, and promoting a socio-cultural environment conducive to gender equality. Our mission is to support these adolescent girls and young women and create change.” – Ella Wama, Benin Country Manager, Batonga Foundation.
During the ceremony, our guest of honor, Gbere Kora Maguidi, Chief Administrative Officer of the Prefect, enthusiastically supported Batonga’s expansion to Atacora. stating, “Envisioning a safer, healthier and more equitable world in which all girls and women can thrive is Batonga’s vision and they need our support to achieve it. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank the Batonga Foundation for this initiative to extend these activities in the Atacora province, particularly in the communes of Natitingou and Boukombé. I invite the other technical and financial partners present here to work in collaboration with the Batonga Foundation so that together, they can fight against the obstacles to the social and economic development of girls and women. The Batonga Foundation has my full support along with the prefecture’s council to help this initiative achieve its objectives”.