In 2015, countries concluded a negotiation process that has spanned more than two years and featured unprecedented participation from civil society, the private sector and governments across the globe. Governments agreed on the need for comprehensive financing for development, adopted a new sustainable development agenda and charted a universal and legally binding global agreement on climate change. All united behind an ambitious agenda that features 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that aim to end poverty, combat inequalities and promote prosperity while protecting the environment by 2030.


These long awaited SDGs do not approach solutions from the African perspective. The SDGs are therefore barely understood or embraced across the continent.


Examples of disconnect between an African narrative and international narrative abound. For instance, with the SDGs, the agriculture sector is still mostly treated through the lens of hunger and malnutrition, rather than through the lens of opportunities implied by agribusiness and job opportunities for the youth. None of the SDGs are cast in terms of growth and opportunity. To maximize the growth opportunities facing Africa today, both men and women in Africa need to be able to reach their full potential. We need to consider how we catalyze stories of African growth. Even more critically, if we are to begin to make progress against our climate change, growth and human development objectives, we need to promote the vital role women play in developing our economies.  Strong emphasis must be placed on the pivotal role of girls as we adapt SDG narratives around education, health care and integrated development.  


 Adopted by all 193 UN member states, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 ambitious goals to end poverty, fight inequality, injustice, and tackle climate change for everyone by 2030.

Giving a voice to women & girls, Yena2030 (“Yena” means “She” in Zulu) will showcase women and girls who stand out every day through their strength; Women who have the courage of their opinions; Women who make a difference and raise awareness of the SDGs in Africa. By informing and engaging fellow Africans, we will be empowered to act upon and hold our governments accountable to development commitments.

Speak Up Africa will work with civil society organizations, NGOs and media companies, including written press and TV outlets, as strategic and distribution partners in this campaign. Each of these partners will support Speak Up Africa with its networks, technical expertise and national knowledge. In addition to providing an outlet for African women and girls’ voices and ideas, Yena2030 will act as a powerful accountability mechanism for the African government SDG commitments. 

17 Goals, 17 women

Yena2030 aims to have celebrities and everyday champions rally around the extensive promotion of SDGs across the African continent. A key component to this campaign will be the recruitment of 17 champions throughout Africa to embody the essence of one specific SDG. Yena2030 will specifically target female thought leaders who are using innovative approaches to push forward the SDGs. Through their respective activities, each thought leader shall set a positive example and thus increase citizen engagement around the SDGs. Throughout the continent, these champions will strengthen the notion that sustainable change can stem from one single woman, knowing that if empowered with the relevant information and proper training, one single woman can largely contribute to the development of her community. Within her country of origin, each of the champions will represent one SDG and serve as a spokesperson for the duration of the campaign. Champions will include athletes, celebrities, government officials, private sector leaders, and influential members of the community. The main criteria of recruitment will revolve around key attributes of each champion, including:

  • Experience
  • Innovation
  • Activity reach
  •  Impact

Through this program, each champion will mentor a young person during a one-year period. This program will include one on one mentoring as well as participation in capacity building sessions for all Yena2030 young trainees whereby they will be trained on transformative communications (leadership, public speaking etc.). It is well documented that young people are more receptive to knowledge from their peers and celebrities, especially if presented in a « fun » way, than they are to official policies. It is often said that ideal role models are « just normal people who have accomplished something ». The chasm between drafting and implementing global goals and the reality of what is happening to improve the lives of women, girls and communities is wide. Official development agendas discussed behind closed doors are rarely implemented effectively and simply do not reach the most vulnerable. At the same time, young women, girls, and communities are working tirelessly to create change. Through Yena2030, Speak Up Africa will strive to drive focus on the change already happening for women and girls in communities throughout Africa, while reminding the world that the lives being empowered both at a local and grassroots level is astounding.


Yena Challenge – Let the games begin

 Entertainment-Education is the process of purposely designing and implementing a media message to both entertain and educate. Through an 8 week-long TV program, Speak Up Africa will strive to increase audience members’ knowledge about the SDG, create favorable attitudes and influence behavior and cultural norms.

 Stories inspire us, teach us, move us, and in so doing they change the world. Entertainment-Education programs draw on our deep affinity for stories to reveal worlds of new possibilities, where dramatic decisions are tied to real world consequences. The choices that TV personalities and potential characters make center on critical social issues, illuminating pathways to change, adoption of new behaviors, and ultimately lead to a world of hope. They serve as role models to bring these concepts to life.

Speak Up Africa proposes to create a national TV competition where 6 teams would fight over the winning prize: full funding of their solution to further the SDG agenda in their country. The SDG that will be tackled during the national competition shall be the same as the one promoted by the national champion. Once per week, the audience will get to follow the challenges contestants will have to overcome to achieve their goal. Through a series of activations, contestants will popularize SDGs in both the communities they will be implanted and at the national level through TV stations. The Yena challenge will help audience members become emotionally tied to the contestants, and these ties influence values and inspire behaviors much more powerfully than direct appeals for change.


Yena Talks 

African women are an essential part of and a contributor to the African development story. Nonetheless, they constantly face challenges. From challenges relating to the access to more formal economic participation to ensuring the preservation of fundamental rights, these champions will tell their own personal journey through by relating their own successes and challenges. Through Yena Talks, Speak Up Africa will provide a stage to, not only recognize the champions that have made an impact towards the achievement of the SGDs, but also to spread innovative, inspiring ideas to move the SDG agenda forward. This platform shall allow regroup the sharpest thinkers and actors across the continent from multiple sectors, all pushing for Africa’s sustainable development. Yena Talks will seek to promote innovative solutions to the critical challenges the continent is currently facing. It will feature presentations, networking opportunities and performances from both women and men active on the continent. Speak Up Africa will produce a short mini-series featuring the guest speakers to maximize information sharing and ensure women’s voices are heard throughout the continent. Sequences of these inspirational stories will be also be shared during the national TV contest as well as on the Yena2030 website and social media channels.