The Batonga Foundation was founded by Angelique Kidjo, in 2006, with the purpose of empowering and educating the most excluded adolescent girls in Africa. Angelique’s message is unique – she celebrates Africa as a land of hope and talent while urging African leaders and citizens to work together to improve the lives of women and children. A three-time Grammy Award winner, deemed “Africa’s premier diva” by Time Magazine, Angelique was the first woman to be listed among “The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa” by Forbes Magazine. She was also the first African women to be appointed as an international Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.
When Batonga launched operations in 2007, it was one of the few innovative organizations investing in adolescent girls as agents of change in rural communities. Batonga offered scholarships, school supplies and support to vulnerable girls in Benin, Ethiopia, Mali, Sierra Leone and Cameroon in partnership with organizations such as USAID, Mercy Corps and Peace Corps. But over time, as this became an increasingly popular strategy in the international community, it became clear that for many of these “off-track girls,” the formal education system was not always a viable solution. While going back to school might be the right choice for some, for many, the classroom does not equip them with knowledge and skills to be socially and financially empowered. Furthermore, it became clear that many of the most vulnerable girls–the orphans, the teenage mothers, the child-brides–were falling off the grid, invisible to the very organizations that wanted to serve them.
As such, Batonga shifted gears, spending down previous programs throughout the continent that focused largely on formal education. In 2016, the organization began refocusing on a data-driven approach in Benin, the home country of founder Angelique Kidjo and the site of Batonga’s longest standing organizational partners. There, Batonga decided that its primary goal was to learn about and serve the most “off-track girls,” working to understand the unique challenges they face and bringing them tools, programs and technologies to transform their lives.
Now, after a decade of leadership in this sector, Batonga has taken on the role of advocate and convener for off-track girls in Francophone West Africa. Batonga has become a laboratory for piloting programs to shift the paradigm for these girls and for transforming the ways that we see, understand and empower this vulnerable population.
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