Who we are


Batonga was founded in 2006 by fearless gender equality advocate and celebrated Beninese singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo. With strong support from both the creative industry and the social impact sector, Batonga addresses the pressing issues faced by adolescent girls and young women most in-need on the African continent. We focus on dismantling the norms and barriers holding them back, and help them transform their potential into the power to lead healthy, independent, safe, and fulfilling lives.


The Batonga Foundation equips the hardest-to-reach girls and young women with the knowledge and skills they need to be agents of change in their own lives and communities.


Batonga envisions a safer, healthier, and more equitable world in which all girls and women can thrive.

Team and board

Benin Team


Benin Country Manager

A lawyer and gender expert by training, Ella Wama has more than 20 years of experience in the management of projects and programs focused on gender equality and equity, strengthening the socio-economic position of women and youth, and building the organisational capacity of women’s and youth associations. Ella has worked with several national and international development institutions as a manager, consultant in the creation and training of women’s associations, community organisations on the methodology of internal savings and credit groups as well as on financial education. She works to contribute to the economic empowerment of women.

Natacha Agbahoungba

Program Manager for Women’s Economic Empowerment

Natacha is a dynamic young professional from Benin who is passionate about the financial empowerment of women. As Batonga’s Program Manager for Women’s Economic Empowerment, Natacha works to enhance the income generating activities of the SONAFA Clubs, manage the Young Women Business Circles program in Benin, and promote financial inclusion throughout the communities Batonga supports.

Prior to her role at Batonga, Natacha worked as CEO of Moringa Social Venture where she promoted Moringa farming and nutrition education on the use of Moringa and other food items to enrich children foods She was previously the Director of the SHE’S GREAT project, a project financed by State Department/Global Women Initiative (GWI) through IREX. She was also a consultant at IREX, a U.S nonprofit.

Florence Bio Idrissou

Program Manager for Adolescent Girls Leadership

A lawyer and project manager by training, Florence is dynamic and very committed to gender equality and the protection of the rights of women and girls. In twelve years of professional experience in development project management in Benin, Florence has worked with CARE International Benin-Togo and several national organizations on various themes such as: women’s and youth leadership, reproductive health of adolescent girls and boys, the fight against sexual and gender-based violence, women’s empowerment, and the promotion of women’s and girls’ right to land ownership.

Brice Ahognonvi

Community Coordinator

Brice is a creative and results-oriented leader with over 15 years experience in the international development sector. In his current role as Training Manager for the Batonga Foundation, Brice works to develop and implement lessons for the SONAFA Clubs as well as provide them with necessary training materials and resources.


Brice is a graduate of the International Management Institute (IM) and holds a Master’s degree in Administrative and Human Resources Management. Prior to working at Batonga, he held various positions in Africare, including as Human Resources Manager for the PILP Project Implementation. Brice also worked for 8 years at the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help/IFESH, as a Program Assistant for the Primary Education Teacher Training (PETT) project funded by USAID. In this role, he worked to build the capacity of the national Pedagogical Network members and implement a new curriculum in Benin’s primary schools.

Ariel Franck Mensah

Admin and Logistic Officer

Ariel Franck Mensah is a highly motivated and enthusiastic accounting professional. Since August 2016, he has been the Accounting Manager for Batonga. In this role, he works to execute all accounting and financial tasks for the Benin country office and manages accounting and financial policies and procedures.

Born and raised in Cotonou, Benin, Ariel Franck Mensah pursued his studies in administrative and accounting management in Senegal after obtaining his secondary school diploma. After three years of studies at the Superior Institute of Management (ISM) at Dakar, Senegal, he obtained his Superior Management Diploma (DSG).He later obtained a Master’s degree in Audit and Management Control at the SupdeCo School of Commerce. During his career, he has developed professional skills by collaborating on audit assignments with the consulting firm, SEN PROJECT in Senegal, and as a customer manager at PADME, a microfinance institution in Benin. Ariel has also worked as the General Inspectorate of the Ministry of Development where he developed more competencies in the control and verification of spending carried out within the public administration, specifically in the Ministry of Plan.

Wilfrid Nougbodohoue


Wilfrid discovered a passion for driving and obtained his category B driver’s license about 10 years ago. He was previously a driver in an NGO and served in a company as a driver-manager. For about three years, Wilfrid has been a driver for the BATONGA team on the different field activities but as a service provider. He formally joined Batonga in May 2022.

Senegal Team

Aida Gueye Seydi

Senegal Country Manager

Trained as an International Organization Manager, Aida Gueye Seydi has about 10 years of experience in the development sector with a focus on the promotion of children’s rights, specifically girls’ rights. She has extensive experience in youth engagement and institutional strengthening of civil society organizations. She has worked as a Regional Program Supervisor at Plan International’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa. A human rights advocate with a passion for feminist leadership, she joined Batonga as Country Manager in Senegal.


West African singer, songwriter and UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador

Three-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest and most unique artists in international music today, a creative force with thirteen albums to her name. Time Magazine has called her “Africa’s premier diva”. The BBC has included her in its list of the continent’s 50 most iconic figures, and in 2011 The Guardian listed her as one of their Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. Forbes Magazine has ranked Angélique as the first woman in their list of the Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. She is the recent recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award.

As a performer, her striking voice, stage presence and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won respect from her peers and expanded her following across national borders. Kidjo has taken the West African traditions of her Beninese childhood and cross-pollinated them with her myriad musical influences, spanning R&B, funk, jazz, gospel, pop, Latin, reggae, and so much more. Along with her own wide-ranging catalog, Kidjo has collaborated with virtually every major artist of the era, including Bono, Peter Gabriel, John Legend, Gilberto Gil, Alicia Keys, Dave Matthews, Philip Glass, Ziggy Marley, Henri Salvador, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Dr. John, Cassandra Wilson, Branford Marsalis, Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, and the San Francisco Symphony, among many others.

Her star-studded album DJIN DJIN won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Album in 2008, and her album OYO was nominated for the same award in 2011. In January 2014 Angélique’s first book, a memoir titled Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (Harper Collins), and her twelfth album, EVE (Savoy/429 Records), were released to critical acclaim. EVE later went on to with the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 2015.

In 2015, Kidjo released Sings with the Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg. The visionary songwriter and vocalist teams with the ensemble’s renowned conductor and composer Gast Waltzing to create an historic work that beautifully blends the classical music traditions of Europe and the powerful rhythmic excitement of the sounds of her native land. SINGS has garnered Angélique her 8th Grammy win (for Best World Music Album). Angélique has gone on to perform this genre-bending work with several international orchestras and symphonies including the Bruckner Orchestra, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Philharmonie de Paris. Her collaboration with Philip Glass, title IFÉ: Three Yorùbá Songs, made its US debut to a sold-out concert with the San Francisco Symphony in June 2015.

On May 5th 2017, Kidjo presented a full-length performance of Talking Heads Milestone album Remain In Light at Carnegie Hall in NYC. The performance by Kidjo and her band, complete with powerful new arrangements, earned her critical acclaim by media outlets like The New York Times and The New Yorker. The full length reimagining of Remain In Light, produced by Grammy Award winner Jeff Bhasker (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Marc Ronson, Fun), will be released at a later date.

Angélique is a committed philanthropist and champion of women and children’s rights around the world. She cofounded the Batonga Foundation in 2006, which equips Benin’s most vulnerable girls with knowledge and skills they need to become agents of change in their communities and in their own lives. Growing up in Benin, Angélique was one of few girls who had the opportunity to pursue an education. She invented the word “Batonga” as a defiant response to classmates and critics who told her girls did not belong in school. Today, the Batonga Foundation takes a data-driven approach to foster change by creating a new paradigm in which all girls are valued and where their economic, social and civic potential is expanded. She also travels the world advocating on behalf of children in her capacity as a UNICEF and OXFAM Goodwill Ambassador.


Partner, Phillips & Cohen LLP and Director, Opportunity Fund

Mary Louise Cohen is a founding partner of Phillips & Cohen LLP, and has represented whistleblowers for more than 25 years in lawsuits brought to remedy fraud against the United States. Her firm has recovered more than $11 billion for state and federal governments in cases filed under the False Claims Act. In 2007, Mary Louise joined with Angelique Kidjo to create the Batonga Foundation to promote and support secondary education for girls in Africa. In 2010, together with Dr. Aziza Shad of Georgetown University, she founded the Aslan Project to improve survival rates for children with cancer in the developing world. Mary Louise graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School and obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.



Director, Business Development and Diversification, FHI 360

Aleta J. Williams is currently Director of Partnerships for FHI 360 and in this role leads efforts to maintain and initiate external partnerships, which are key to achieving the organization’s goals in human development. Williams has held several leadership roles in both the private and nonprofit sectors.

In London, she launched GRM International’s (now Palladium Consulting) new education practice and served as its first director for global education. For the U.S. Agency for International Development, Williams provided policy recommendations and managed country-level activities under President George W. Bush’s US$600 million Africa Education Initiative, as well as a US$200 million investment in 21 bilateral education partnerships.

For President Bill Clinton’s Education for Development and Democracy Initiative, Williams managed a portfolio that included projects on information and communications technologies, democracy and governance, and economic development.

Williams began her career at McKinsey & Company, where she was an information associate and researcher covering general practices and the energy sector. Her diverse professional experience includes producing an award-winning documentary series, Readers are Leaders, and working under the tutelage of civil rights leader, Dr. Dorothy I. Height.

Williams has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Master in Public Administration from George Washington University. She is the proud mother of a daughter, Denver and a fierce advocate for women, girls and youth domestically and internationally.


Vice Chair

Partner, The Inspired Philanthropy Group

Monica is an independent consultant with a focus on systemic approaches to poverty alleviation, gender parity, and environmental justice. She is Chair of The Global Philanthropists Circle, an initiative of Synergos Institute, a network of international families focused on solving complex issues related to poverty and social injustice. She is Chair of The Garrison Institute, a non sectarian social beneficiary organization and retreat center that shares ancient and scientific contemplative practices to promote resilience and strengthen compassion social action in the world.

In 2006 Monica cofounded Inspired Philanthropy Group, a boutique philanthropic consulting group aimed at helping people unleash their time, passion and assets to do good in the world. In 2002 she helped create and roll out the “Six Villages Campaign” helping vulnerable populations affected by HIV for FXB International. She was a founding vice chair of Women Moving Millions, a campaign and community of women dedicated to using their funds and influence to elevate the status of women and girls.

Monica serves on the boards of her family foundations, The William H Donner and Donner Canadian. She lives in New York with her husband Josh and is the proud mother of two young women and a seven year old son.



Songwriter, arranger and composer

Jean Hebrail has been Angelique Kidjo’s life partner and composer since her breakthrough album Logozo. After finishing a Masters degree in Philosophy at the Sorbonne University in France, Jean met Angelique in a Paris Jazz School where he was studying bass. He served as Angelique’s musical director and bass player for many years before focusing on arranging and composing most of her albums.

Jean has also written many songs used in movies, commercials and video games.
Since 2002, he has been coordinating Angelique’s charitable work with UNICEF, OXFAM and other organizations.


Karen Richardson has almost 20 years of experience in complex, multidisciplinary leadership roles that have required extensive team-building/leadership acumen, multi-platform crisis, tactical and strategic communications skills, and ongoing innovation at the intersection of public and media perception of high-profile national conversations. A public affairs professional with expertise in foreign and domestic policy issues, she provides clients with strategic counsel on social impact issues and campaigns, strategic communications and outreach, political strategy, long-term strategic planning, traditional and digital organizing, stakeholder engagement and coalition building, and government.

An eight-year veteran of the Obama Administration, Karen served as Associate Director & Public Engagement Advisor for the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs from 2009 to 2014, before being appointed a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U. S. Department of State. In 2017, Karen transitioned to the private sector, becoming a senior consultant for RALLY communications in LA during the start-up phase of the seminal Time’s Up campaign, where she orchestrated operational and strategic planning, and public messaging for this global movement. Her clients are in a variety of sectors, such as the nonprofit and entertainment arenas, including the Grammys, where she worked with the President of the Recording Academy and its Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion.

Karen’s numerous successes for the Obama White House and John Kerry’s State Department include public outreach, strategic communications and messaging for the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act, the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ US/Cuba relations, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, in addition to the Department of State’s first ever Entertainment Industry Initiative.

Karen is a focused, collaborative and astute professional with exceptional strategic insights that allow her to deliver game-changing, cross-sector results with both national and global impacts. She is a proud graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science (Master of Science), Howard University School of Law (JD), and Howard University (BA), and she currently resides in Los Angeles with her family.


Contemporary visual artist, Benin

Romuald Hazoumè is one of Africa’s foremost contemporary artists and a master of diverse forms of media. Hazoumè creates masks, photographs, paintings, sculptures and multi-media installations that include sound and video components. Using the ubiquitous plastic petrol-can as his unmistakable iconic signature, Hazoumè, during his artistic career, has created a series of monumental installations that act as metaphors of African place, history, and identity. Whether taking aim at endemic political corruption in Africa or addressing the global indifference compounding environmental disasters, Hazoumè creates visually striking works capable of compressing bewildering details into complex, yet nuanced metaphors that contain many powerful ideas. Hazoumè was the Arnold Bode prize-winner at documenta 12, and his work has been shown in major international galleries and museums, including the British Museum, London, the Metropolitan, New York, GOMA, Brisbane, NMAfA, Washington DC and most recently the Kunsthaus Graz, Austria.

Joel H. Samuels

Professor of Law, Director of the Rule of Law Collaborative, University of South Carolina

Joel H. Samuels is Professor of Law and Director of the Rule of Law Collaborative at the University of South Carolina. With more than 20 years of experience working on development issues across Sub-Saharan Africa, Joel joined the Batonga Foundation Board of Directors in January 2017.

As Director of the Rule of Law Collaborative, Joel oversees programming focused on rule of law development across the globe. In addition, he regularly lectures to U.S. Government officials from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense on rule of law development abroad.

Joel has also worked at the World Bank in both Washington (in the Office of the Vice President for Africa) and in Zimbabwe (at the African Capacity Building Foundation) focusing on capacity building in economic policy analysis and development management. During that time, he was a member of the World Bank team that drafted the Initiative for Capacity Building in Africa, a cornerstone document in the World Bank’s initial efforts in that arena. During his time in private law practice at Covington & Burling, Joel was involved in the ad hoc arbitration of the Eritrea-Ethiopia boundary dispute and led the team that drafted a new Civil Service Code for Eritrea.

Honored by the USC School of Law student body in 2007 and 2016 as the Outstanding Faculty Member for teaching excellence, Joel received his A.B., magna cum laude, in politics from Princeton University in 1994. He received his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School in 1999, where he was a Clarence Darrow Scholar. While at Michigan, he also earned a master’s degree in Russian and East European Studies.

Katrina Sharkey

Katrina Sharkey is currently Adviser to the World Bank’s Vice President for West and Central Africa. A seasoned development professional with 35 years of experience in international economic development, Katrina joined the Batonga Foundation Board in July 2020. She brings to the table leadership skills, and a track record in strategy development, implementation and governance. She also brings a passion for strengthening the voice and agency of girls and young women, especially those in fragile and insecure environments.

Katrina was World Country Manager to Benin from 2015 to 2019. Previously, she served as Deputy to the Directors for the Bank’s programs in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger, Mauritania and Togo, and also worked in country management for the Bank’s programs in Central Africa. Her work on Poverty Reduction Strategies in low income countries exposed her to the challenges and economic opportunities for vulnerable populations across Central and East Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. She has been active in the design and implementation of public expenditure and governance operations in the Maghreb, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Katrina has occupied a number of corporate World Bank roles, including the delivery of programs on the management of transition and public investment – following the fall of the Berlin Wall – for young leaders from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and public sector performance in Portuguese-speaking African countries. She also served in the Bank’s Corporate Secretariat with responsibilities including facilitation of relations between Management and the Executive Board.

Katrina began her career as a consultant researcher with the Energy Directorate General of the European Commission in Brussels, where she worked on EU energy cooperation with the People’s Republic of China, Brazil, Ecuador and Turkey.

Katrina has an MA Moderatorship (Honours) degree in French and Spanish and a Higher Diploma in Education, both from Trinity College, Dublin, and a Postgraduate in Business Administration from the Solvay Business School, Université Libre de Bruxelles. She is a graduate of the Program for Senior Managers in Government from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Katrina was decorated in 2019 as Commander of the National Order of Benin by the country’s Grand Chancellor of the National Order of Benin. She is the recipient of World Bank corporate awards for outstanding achievement in strategy and teamwork, including in the context of the institution’s Ebola Emergency Response. Katrina is the proud mother of an accomplished daughter, Imogen. She has full working competence in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, with intermediate competence in Russian.



Chairman, Investment Committee, RH Bophelo

Colin Clarke is currently Chairman of Benguela Global Fund managers, a South African asset management firm with both equities and fixed income products. Chairman of the Investment Committee of Sizwe Medical Fund. A member of the Board of Directors, Audit and Risk Committee as well as Chairman of the Compensation Committee for Atlatsa Group Resources a dual-listed platinum group minerals company.

Formerly Chairman of the Board of Directors for ACPI Investment Managers South Africa, a subsidiary of London based asset management firm operating in the fixed income, equities, special situations and private equities space. He has extensive experience with listed and multinational organisations including BP Amoco, the African America Institute, the National Empowerment Fund in South Africa and the Africa Regional Assistance Electoral Fund, and the Sloan Financial Groups, NAIF, both private equity funds where he served as legal counsel in the former and a partner in the later. Colin has also served as a Chief Investment Officer for Sishen Iron Ore’s Community Development Trust and He has also served as a Director for the special projects division of Lonrho Africa Plc.

Colin has also served as the Chief Operating Officer of the National Empowerment Fund in South Africa between 2009 and 2010, where he headed the group operations as well as asset management, marketing and communications and strategy and planning. He has many years of international law, private equity and corporate finance experience with multinational organisations such as BP Amoco, where he served as legal counsel in Western Areas (acquisitions department). Colin has also held the position of Deputy Director for Trade and Investment at the African America Institute and Programme Director for the Africa Regional Assistance Electoral Fund, which was, established to assist African countries’ transition to democracy.

Who we support

We work with adolescent girls on the African continent because this is their reality:

Discover more about the girls and young women we serve.

We find the girls who are often left behind by traditional development initiatives and government services. We work with communities to transform the potential of these girls into power.

We work with community leaders and local mentors to identify girls, often hard to locate, likely to be socially isolated or disadvantaged. Many live on less than $2 a day.

We serve adolescent girls from 12-18, and young women from 19-30.

Angelique’s Story

“Angelique Kidjo pushes back against any stereotype that gets in her way. I like to tell people that if you don’t know Angelique you haven’t lived, because there’s not one person who would be in her presence and not be changed.”
Desmond Tutu

Batonga was founded by Angélique Kidjo in 2006 with the purpose of transforming the most vulnerable adolescent girls in Africa into powerful women. Angélique’s message is unique – she celebrates Africa as a land of hope and talent and sees its youth, particularly its young women, as an investment for the future.

Determined that all girls and young women must choose their own destiny, Angélique works tirelessly with the Batonga team to develop best practices. The girls she meets see that she is a force for good; that she leads by example – dignified, ambitious and fearless.

And who better to promote gender equality and female empowerment than Angélique? A three-time Grammy Award winner, deemed “Africa’s premier diva” by Time Magazine, she was the first woman to be listed among “The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa” by Forbes Magazine. She was also the first African woman to be appointed as an international Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Today she brings her voice to the world stage to advocate for change on the ground with a platform and legitimacy that is unique, credible, and compelling.

“I am Angelique Kidjo, and I’ve made it my life’s work to support my fellow African sisters. Growing up in Benin, I saw first-hand how gender norms and a devaluation of the African girl led to my peers being married off as children, and becoming mothers before they could even finish school.”
“I created Batonga so that every girl can envision and build a future in which she is safe, respected, valued, and fulfilled. I want every single adolescent girl and young woman on my continent to know her worth, feel her power, and access opportunities that benefit her but also her community.”
“Girls and women in Africa are often talked about in numbers, or through the incredible hardship they face. But I think of them as supergirls, with enough resilience and determination to march on and build their futures. With a little support, consistent mentoring and access to opportunity, women and girls can carry their communities into a future that is equal, safe, and fulfilling”


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