Building safe spaces for girls

Adolescent girls are incredible change-makers in their communities – all they need is knowledge, solid support, and a safe place to be. That’s where our girls’ clubs come in.

Batonga Clubs are open to girls from 12 to 18 years old. They provide girls with a safe space to learn critical life skills and information ranging from reproductive health to financial literacy. Girls understand their rights, gain self-confidence, and can plan their own economic future.

Our clubs offer

  • safe spaces
  • community-based support
  • dedicated mentors
  • peer community.

Batonga clubs also house small businesses managed by the girls, to learn about finances, entrepreneurship and being economically independent.

Engaging communities for change

In every area we’re in, we aim to bring the whole community with us. At the local level, we work with leaders and different stakeholders to transform harmful norms and beliefs around girls and equality. At the national level, we build and nurture practitioner communities to share evidence-based knowledge and promote innovation.

Young Women’s Economic Empowerment

With access to finance, support in business growth and professional training opportunities, young women in rural communities can tackle their own economic futures. They can be full participants in local, national, and regional markets – creating opportunities for themselves and others. When young women can access dignified and sustained employment, the whole economy benefits.

Our Equal Economic Futures program builds

  • connection and networks to the business community
  • vocational training opportunities
  • support systems and solidarity networks.

Through our Young Women Business Circles, we are changing how communities and markets see, value, and engage young women entrepreneurs.

Mentoring

What a difference a mentor makes

Mentoring is at the heart of our work and nothing that we do could be done without the Batonga mentors. As we survey and map villages, we recruit and train local women to mentor girls from their own communities, creating lasting solidarity and support systems. As well as advocating for the girls 24/7, mentors build girls’ social and economic skills in the clubs and through radio lessons, provide emotional support to girls and their families, and serve as role models.

“I wanted to become a Batonga Mentor because I wanted to help the girls in my community avoid making the same mistakes as me and prevent them from falling into the many traps that lie on the path of adolescence. I have so much energy and determination to ensure the women and girls in my community grow up to feel safe, supported, and secure.

Anicette, Batonga Mentor in Sodohome village, Bohicon (Benin)

Our mentoring model

With local teams and community-based mentors, Batonga has conceptualized a feminist mentoring model that has benefited thousands of girls.

At an individual level, a Batonga mentor will:

  • build a lasting relationship with girls between 10 and 18 years old
  • support her and her family
  • be a trusted confidant and advisor

At a collective level, our mentors:

  • organize safe spaces
  • deliver peer mentoring
  • build assets and skills including economic, social, interpersonal, and cognitive
  • support girls in designing and implementing community projects

To ensure trusting and intimate relationships between mentors and girls, we find mentors who are local to the same community. They are typically between 25 and 35 years old – old enough to offer advice but young enough to be relatable to girls.

Amplifying Voices

We, and the young women we work with, inspire others to take action through shared learning and advocacy.

We work in partnership to amplify African voices. We offer African gender equality advocates and champions access to decision-making spaces and processes.

Through targeted engagement and evidence-based thought leadership and advocacy, we influence global decision-making processes to ensure that policies, and programs reflect the needs and priorities of the most vulnerable African girls and young women.

Our “Nos Voix Comptent” initiative works to ensure francophone african women and girls are central to the Generation Equality Forum processes and outcomes. Check out the initiative’s website to learn more!

In 2021, Batonga will also launch “Conversations for Africa”, a virtual conversation space that will see African leaders and artists discuss the most pressing priorities for gender equality on the continent. Watch this space!

#NosVoixComptent (nosvoixcomptent.org)

Arts for Gender Equality

The Batonga Foundation is at the beginning of an exciting journey to promote Arts as a key vector for change when it comes to reaching gender equality.

In Benin, Batonga uses theater and song in its work with adolescent girls, to both learn about their rights but also to raise awareness about important issues with members of their communities, like gender-based violence and COVID19 prevention awareness.

In 2021, we will be formally launching our Arts for Gender Equality portfolio to fasttrack gender equality progress on the African continent. Watch this space!

Our Impact

Our work increases the safety and wellbeing of girls and young women, mainly through raising awareness about their rights, how to keep safe, but also through improving their relationship with their parents and other community members. Access to a mentor has shown to help navigate difficult decisions and situations. And thanks to our work, girls have also increased personal hygiene, nutrition, and understanding of their sexual and reproductive health and rights

Girls also exhibit stronger capacities to discuss their needs and issues in front of adults and other community members. The skills and knowledge they gain allows them to self-advocate and engage in peer solidarity, challenging the status quo together and changing how others value them and their peers.

Adolescent girls and young women gain strong financial literacy skills and concrete income-generating experience by the time they graduate from our clubs. They now run 183 micro-businesses, sharing profits, and building business strategies together.

1,629
young women engaged in income-generating activities through 50 young women business circles
2
Professional Training Centers (40 girls in current training programs)

Batonga mentors have built social capital in their own communities, and are now respected leaders and authorities on how to support girls, families, and resolve conflict. Their leadership is recognized by community members and they have gained legitimacy as local leaders.

Parents are better equipped to engage with their daughters and support them in making healthy decisions. Girls have seen their social status increase and feel more respected, while communities value their roles and contributions more.

Our impact in numbers

15
Communities in rural Benin
3,610
adolescent girls and young women aged 10 to 30 supported
55
Batonga Mentors
126
Leadership Clubs
34
10-11 year-old Clubs (1,014 girls)
33
12 - 16 year-old Clubs (967 adolescent girls)
59
17 - 18 year old Clubs (1,629 young women)
50
Young Women Business Circles
1,621
Home visits conducted in 15 villages last year (2019)

“I come to Batonga because the teachings have helped me a lot. Before I didn't know how to save money. But since Batonga came, the mentors have taught us how to save money. This allowed me to know when I have 100 CFA, I can use 50 CFA and save 50f for it to be beneficial in the future.”

Christine, Noellie club, Tovigomin

“There is a lesson that asks us what brings us here. And we all agreed that we are here to learn more and gain knowledge. My favorite lesson so far has been on critical thinking. I’ve learned that in order to avoid bad decisions, I must think deeply about the decision before I make it. For example, cutting a tree may seem like a good decision at first as it is just taking up space but thinking about it, it’s very bad to cut it down. If you let it grow, it will provide you shade and will allow you to rest when it's hot.”

Ella, Noellie Club

“What inspired me to be a mentor was that in my childhood and youth, I couldn't find anyone to guide me. As a result I was easily influenced and it is in view of all this that I decided to be a guide for the teenage girls of my village so that they do not fall into the same traps as me.”

Marguérite, Batonga Mentor (Savalou)

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