Imagine walking into a venue buzzing with energy and ambition. That’s exactly what it felt like at the Geneva Digital Health Day on May 30th. The African Women in Digital Health (AWiDH) initiative held a session that highlighted the incredible strides African women are making in the digital health sector. Bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders, AWiDH fosters collaboration and leadership among women in digital health. Through targeted training, a supportive network, and increased visibility for women entrepreneurs and innovators, AWiDH empowers these women to turn their ambitions into reality. They’re not just talking about change; they’re making it happen by closing the digital gender gap and creating a thriving community of female leaders in digital health.

Unique challenges faced by African Women

During the workshop, participants highlighted the unique challenges African women face in the digital health sector, emphasizing how socio-cultural norms exacerbate these issues. Despite being the driving force behind many entrepreneurial ventures globally, African women encounter significant barriers rooted in traditional gender roles, expectations around marriage, and limited access to education and technology.

For instance, in Senegal, 36% of women reported literacy as a barrier to mobile access compared to just 12% of men. This disparity is not just a matter of education but is deeply influenced by cultural expectations that prioritize men’s education and professional advancement over women’s. In many African societies, women are expected to fulfill domestic roles, and their involvement in technology and digital jobs is often discouraged. Marriage and family obligations further restrict their ability to pursue careers in digital health, as societal norms often dictate that women should prioritize household responsibilities over professional development.

Additionally, only about 30% of the African population has internet access, with women frequently excluded from digital jobs and networks. This exclusion is compounded by socio-cultural constraints that limit women’s mobility and access to technology. For example, in some communities, women may need permission from male family members to attend training programs or use the internet, significantly hindering their full participation in the digital health economy. Addressing these barriers through inclusive strategies is essential to ensure that women are not only participants but also leaders and innovators in the digital health space.

An opportunity to foster sisterhood and empowerment

As the insightful conversation continued to unfold, participants underscored the importance of networks like AWiDH in overcoming the previously mentioned challenges. Beyond its primary missions, AWiDH is also a vital support group that fosters sisterhood and empowerment for African women in digital health. The sense of community and solidarity within AWiDH provides a safe space for women to share their experiences, challenges, and successes, creating a nurturing environment that encourages personal and professional growth.

Mentorship and sisterhood, combined with capacity building on soft skills, were highlighted as key components of this support system. Participants stressed that mentorship programs within AWiDH help women navigate the socio-cultural barriers they face, offering guidance, inspiration, and practical advice. The network also focuses on developing soft skills such as leadership, communication, and negotiation, which are crucial for women to thrive in the digital health sector.

By leveraging these opportunities, AWiDH empowers African women to become influential leaders and innovators in digital health, helping to bridge the digital divide and foster an inclusive digital health ecosystem across the continent. This holistic approach not only addresses immediate barriers but also cultivates a long-term cultural shift towards gender equity in digital health.

Looking ahead

AWiDH is poised to continue its impactful journey with the upcoming release of the African Digital Health Equity Roadmap at the Africa Health Tech Summit in Kigali later this year. This roadmap will provide actionable steps to bridge the digital divide and foster an inclusive digital health ecosystem across the continent. It will focus on enhancing digital infrastructure, improving access to digital tools, and supporting capacity-building initiatives for African women. The roadmap will also highlight successful case studies and best practices that can be replicated and scaled across different regions.

Get involved

For those inspired to be part of this transformative movement, AWiDH warmly welcomes women to join our network dedicated to advancing inclusion, leadership, and innovation for African women in digital health across the continent. By becoming a member, you will connect with a vibrant community of professionals, gain access to exclusive events, and actively contribute to impactful initiatives aimed at bridging gender gaps in digital health.

For more information on the AWiDH initiative, please contact Khadidia Diakhaby (

May 18, 2024, Dakar, Senegal – In Dakar, Senegal, Speak Up Africa is partnering with Mohamed A. Cissé, an art curator, to celebrate and magnify the leadership of African women through art and creativity. Eight “Lingeer” (Sister or Wife of the King in Wolof) participated in this exhibition aimed at amplifying the voices and profiles of African LeadHERS, innovative and visionary women who contribute to transformational change on the continent.

Gender equality is a fundamental human right, vital for a prosperous world and Africa. However, currently it is estimated that it will take more than 120 years to close gender gaps in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 135 years to achieve equity in pay and leadership. As an organization led by women, gender equality is in the DNA of Speak Up Africa, which has developed its own gender strategy to best integrate it into the different themes on which the organization works such as fight against malaria, neglected tropical diseases or research and development for global health.

Through the Lingeer exhibition, we wanted to highlight the women who make Senegal and Africa, a varied group of creatives, athletes, activists, artists and organizational leaders, who through their daily actions fight for the rights of all women. Art is a powerful platform for creating lasting change for gender equality. Together, through diverse voices and pathways, we can achieve an Africa where each and every woman can realize her full potential.

Yacine Djibo, Executive Director of Speak Up Africa

In 1995, the United Nations Conference on Women was held in Beijing. While this Conference marked a turning point in terms of commitment to gender equality, the Generation Equality Forum, co-chaired by France and Mexico, more than two decades later, showed that we were far away achieved our objectives in the field. This Forum was an opportunity for Speak Up Africa to launch its “African LeadHERs” campaign. Through this movement, Speak Up Africa collaborates with leaders from all sectors of society, including sport, fashion, culture and art, to work together creatively to build a stronger, more vibrant world. fair and more inclusive.

I had a great pleasure in leading the Artistic Direction of this project. I say project, because it is more than an exhibition. It is first of all the fruit of meetings between people from different horizons and backgrounds, who have found complementarity. It is then the achievement of a common vision, in the service of a cause: gender equality. All of this resulted in this exhibition which, we hope, will resonate widely.

Mohamed A. Cissé, Art Curator and co-creator of the Lingeer project

The Lingeer exhibition, designed and organized as part of the Dakar Biennale and ahead of Africa Day (May 25), highlights through the creative eye of the young and talented photographer Khalifa Hussein, the extraordinary women who are: Rajah Sy, Director, Special Olympics Senegal and key partner of Speak Up Africa, Ndeye Dossou Ndiaye, Coordinator of the women’s program at the NBA Academy Africa and mentee of the “BAL4HER meets African  LeadHERs” initiative, Awa Cissé, Marketing Manager, Basketball Africa League, Fatimata Sy, Executive Secretary of ASAFE, an organization based in Guediawaye which is part of the Voix EssentiELLES initiative in Senegal, Imaan Gaye, Ceramist and social entrepreneur, Khadija Aisha Ba, Founder of L’Artisane Shop, Audrey D’Erneville, Artist and painter and Samira Fall, Poet and slammer and writer.

In 2023, Speak Up Africa partnered with the African Basketball League to launch the “Teaming Up: BAL4HER Meets African LeadHERs” mentorship program, which uses sport as a key driver of gender equality and social and economic transformation in Africa by strengthening, through modules and collaboration with exceptional mentors, the employability of young women in the sports industry on the continent.

I am truly humbled to be part of this incredible project with Speak Up Africa. It fills my heart with love and gratitude. Together we are creating a powerful map of change and raising awareness of gender equality. I am honored to stand alongside this organization, and these extraordinary women, on this journey. Let’s continue to inspire and make a difference!

Ndeye Dossou Ndiaye, Coordinator of the women’s program at the NBA Academy Africa and mentee of the “BAL4HER meets African LeadHERs” program.

While health and sanitation are at the heart of Speak Up Africa’s strategic priorities, the engagement of women and youth is also a pillar of the organization, which works, through initiatives such as Voix EssentiELLES, in Burkina Faso, in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, to support women-led civil society organizations, in order to strengthen their capacity and participation in decision-making processes that affect their health.

In a society that confines women to limited roles, it is imperative that they break down barriers and assert themselves as autonomous agents of their own destiny. As a woman, I refuse to shrink myself to socio-cultural diktats that hinder my development and my freedom of expression. Art is a powerful tool that allows us to raise our voices, let’s use this platform to transform our society and thus end the injustices that overwhelm women and girls in Africa

Fatimata Sy, Executive Secretary of ASAFE and Voix EssentiELLES of Senegal

May 10, 2024, Arusha, Tanzania – The 18th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA18) took place from 6 May to 9 May 2024 in Arusha, Tanzania. In To increase co-creation and collaboration between climate and health actors, the Global Fund convened representatives of civil-society organizations and impacted communities working on HIV, TB, Malaria, health and climate response from various regions of Africa to the Conference.

Of the three diseases at the core of the Global Fund’s mission, malaria is the most affected by climate change. Eighty-seven percent of the global malaria burden and Global Fund resources are focused in the same 50 most vulnerable countries. Climate change, in addition to drug- and insecticide-resistance and conflict, poses an urgent threat to malaria control and elimination efforts. Climate change also jeopardizes the fight against HIV and TB. Its impact on food security, as well as extreme weather events, are driving population displacement, which increases communities’ vulnerability to disease. Floods, cyclones and other climate disasters also interrupt access to healthcare. 

Climate change presents a profound threat to the reversal of gains and achievements of the Global Fund’s partnership in climate-impacted countries and communities. Impacted and vulnerable communities and people are at the center of the Global Fund strategy. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have lowest per capita greenhouse gas emissions but have many of the most climate-vulnerable countries.

CBA18 brings together community of practitioners, grassroots representatives, local and national government planners, policymakers and donors working at all levels and scales to reimagine solutions that enable transformative outcomes, through the agency of communities driving climate action. CBA is a space for the climate adaptation community to share learning on community-based and locally led adaptation approaches, and to explore how to put the principles for locally led adaptation (LLA) into practice, recognizing the complexities, innovations and challenges that must be overcome. The Global Fund and its community and civil society partners- ALMA, EANNASO, HEPS Uganda, ITPC, Lensational, RAME and Speak Up Africa co-created two sessions at the conference focused on “Resilient Communities, Health Futures” and “Community engagement and advocacy in climate-health decision-making spaces”.

Climate change is increasing existing social and economic vulnerabilities, including amongst key, vulnerable and underserved populations affected by HIV, Tuberculosis or malaria, with most significant impacts occurring in Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.

By 2030s, models indicate that potentially an additional 50-62 million people will be at increased risk for endemic malaria transmission, and 37-48 million people at risk for seasonal transmission, in Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa.

The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) is working to keep the issues of climate change and health, including malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), high on the agenda of the Heads of States and Governments of Africa, the quarterly report being a good example and we are working to provide support for countries to integrate climate change and health indicators to the scorecard tools of accountability, advocacy and action.

Aloyce Urassa, Public Health Scientist and Chairperson of the ALMA Youth Advisory Council.

Climate inequities disproportionately affect low-income and marginalized communities, worsening the existing inequalities in political power, policy, practice, and funding that also contribute to health disparities. Climate change impacts people and communities ability to access health services differently depending on a wide range of climate-related and societal factors including  gender and age, and this is why “Support for the adaptation of communities-led solutions to climate change must focus on raising their awareness in order for them to find tailored and context-specific solutions.” Simon Kaboré, Regional Executive Director of RAME.

Incorporating gender considerations into climate change and disaster risk reduction projects can help ensure the projects’ effectiveness and improve women’s, and their families’, resilience to climate change. By addressing gender, adaptation, and mitigation together, we can come up with approaches on the ground that have multiple development benefits. Women are already more vulnerable to undernutrition, health vulnerabilities and have less access to medical services than men; climate change can exacerbate this situation. Changing temperatures alter vectors for diseases like malaria, higher sea-surface temperatures are correlated with cholera epidemics, and more frequent droughts and floods will worsen sanitation and hygiene. Since 2021, Speak Up Africa, an advocacy and strategic communications organization, is working with the Global Fund on the Voix EssentiELLES initiative, a project strengthening women and girls’ capacity, in all of their diversity, by meaningfully engaging them in decision-making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programs.

This conference is a perfect opportunity for Speak Up Arica and our Voix EssentiELLES initiative to delve into the climate world and actors and understand the challenges and adaptation mechanisms or programs in place that are critical for climate resilience. It is even more essential for us to understand community-led gender-sensitive solutions implemented by our climate counterparts and think about how to best co-create climate health resilient gender considerations in Africa. I was delighted to attend sessions like the « Turning the tide:  how to enable gender and locally led adaptation action for good » which was particularly insightful.

Maelle Ba, Senior Communications Manager at Speak Up Africa and co-Chair of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria Strategic Communications Partner Committee.

To date, climate and health risks are often viewed in silos in decision making. This is why, as part of the Conference, Lensational, a non-profit social enterprise, with the mission of equipping women from underrepresented groups and communities with cameras and photography training so they can express themselves and represent themselves with dignity, Speak Up Africa and the Global Fund, organized a session on « Community engagement and advocacy in climate-health decision-making spaces » to take stock of best practices and learnings in advancing community engagement and advocacy in health and climate adaptation policy, programming and financing. The interactive session further explored approaches that have worked in strengthening capacities and leadership to improve advocacy and meaningful engagement of communities most impacted by climate change.

With a focus on acquiring new skills, sharing experiences and connecting with peers, the CBA18 conference offers participants four days of discussion, debate, peer-to-peer ‘skill-shares’ and knowledge exchange, through an innovative, dynamic and interactive space, enabling participants to promote community-led climate action.

It is only through integration, adaptation and innovation that we will be able to address the climate crisis and ensure healthy futures for all. This Conference has provided a platform, even within the Global Fund partnership, to hold crucial conversations on how to best integrate climate resilience into community systems. Our amazing partners are coming up with powerful and impactful solutions and enabling us to increase knowledge translations.

Seonmi Choi, Senior Advisor- Climate Change and Environment at the Global Fund

As the impacts of climate change cause ripples through communities worldwide, scaled-up efforts that support those most impacted by the climate crisis are urgently needed. Breaking down the silos between climate and health is imperative for effective decision-making, and community voices on adaptation are key in understanding how climate and health are interlinked, which will eventually allow for development of holistic strategies that address both climate resilience and health equity.

Il y a deux ans, Speak Up Africa s’est lancé dans un parcours transformateur en intégrant le genre et l’inclusion sociale au cœur de notre mission. Alors que nous commémorons le Mois de l’Histoire des Femmes, je suis fière de notre progrès vers un changement équitable et durable en faveur de sociétés africaines saines et prospères.

Le lancement de notre Stratégie Genre et Inclusion Sociale marque un changement significatif à la fois en interne et dans nos approches de plaidoyer. Notre campagne phare, African LeadHERs, soutient l’inclusion des femmes et des filles dans les plateformes publiques et dans le leadership, et vise à les encourager, dans toute leur diversité, à participer de manière significative dans les espaces de prise de décision en matière de santé. Nous nous associons à des leaders dans tous les secteurs de la société, y compris le sport, la mode, la culture et l’art, pour travailler créativement ensemble à construire un monde plus fort, plus juste et plus inclusif. Depuis 2014, notre partenariat continu avec Special Olympics pour promouvoir une santé inclusive, souligne notre engagement indéfectible envers un monde où les personnes vivant avec un handicap sont protégées et valorisées.

Du point de vue programmatique, nous avons conceptualisé et accéléré une variété d’initiatives visant à aborder les questions de genre et d’inclusion sociale. Des programmes comme Voix EssentiELLES ont été déterminants pour permettre aux femmes et aux filles de s’engager à façonner, de manière significative, les programmes et politiques de santé. Le mouvement des Femmes Africaines en Santé Numérique (AWiDH) comble le fossé entre les sexes dans la santé numérique, remodelant les stratégies, politiques et programmes pour inclure les besoins uniques des femmes. De plus, notre Prix des Jeunes Innovateurs Africains pour la Santé montre notre engagement envers les jeunes entrepreneurs s’attaquant aux défis de la santé et notre soutien aux femmes entrepreneurs dans la recherche et l’innovation.

Institutionnellement, nous avons considérablement amélioré la compréhension et les attitudes de notre personnel et de nos partenaires envers le genre et l’inclusion sociale, favorisant une approche programmatique et un cadre de travail plus inclusifs. De même, nos systèmes et processus administratifs ont évolué pour intégrer intentionnellement l’équité et l’inclusion des genres, assurant que ces aspects critiques se reflètent dans chaque facette de notre travail.

Dans les années à venir, notre dévouement à établir des partenariats transformateurs et à plaider pour une Afrique inclusive et équitable restera inébranlable. Ce voyage nécessitera un effort et un engagement collectif. Nous invitons alors nos partenaires à unir leurs forces pour promouvoir l’égalité des genres et l’inclusion sociale à tous les niveaux. Votre engagement peut générer un impact considérable, influençant des vies et transformant des communautés à travers l’Afrique pour le meilleur, dès aujourd’hui et pour les générations futures.

Ensemble, construisons un héritage d’inclusivité et d’équité en Afrique.

Two years ago, Speak Up Africa embarked on a transformative journey by integrating gender and social inclusion at the heart of our mission. As we commemorate Women’s History Month, I am filled with pride as I reflect on our progress towards driving equitable and sustainable change towards healthy and thriving African societies.

The inception of our Gender and Social Inclusion Strategy marks a significant shift both internally and in our advocacy approaches.  Our umbrella African LeadHERs campaign supports the inclusion of women and girls on public platforms and in leadership and aims to encourage women’s and girls, in all their diversity, to significantly participate in decision-making spaces for improved public health. We partner with leaders from all sectors of society, including sports, fashion, culture and art to creatively work together to build a stronger, fairer and more inclusive world.  Our sustained partnership with the Special Olympics since 2014 promoting inclusive health highlights our unwavering commitment to a world where individuals with disabilities are protected and valued.

From a programmatic perspective, we have conceptualized and accelerated a variety of initiatives aimed at addressing gender and social inclusion issues. Programs like Voix EssentiELLEs have been instrumental in enabling women and girls to meaningfully engage in shaping health programs and policies. The African Women in Digital Health movement is bridging the gender gap in digital health, reshaping strategies, policies, and programs to include women’s unique needs. Additionally, our  Africa Young Innovators for Health Award showcases our commitment to young entrepreneurs tackling health challenges and  to supporting women entrepreneur in research and innovation.

Institutionally, we’ve significantly enhanced the understanding and attitudes of our staff and partners towards gender and social inclusion, fostering a more inclusive workplace and programmatic approach. Similarly, our administrative systems and processes have evolved to intentionally integrate gender equity and inclusion, ensuring these critical aspects are reflected in every facet of our work.

As we forge ahead, our dedication to establishing transformative partnerships and advocating for an inclusive and equitable Africa remains unwavering. This journey requires a collective effort and commitment. We extend a heartfelt invitation to our stakeholders and partners to join forces in championing gender equality and social inclusion at every level. Your engagement can create a ripple effect, touching lives and shaping communities across Africa for the better, now and for future generations.

Together, let’s build a legacy of inclusivity and fairness in Africa.

Imaginez un monde où nous, les femmes, premières concernées et actrices de la santé des familles, sont enfin entendues et représentées dans les plus hautes sphères de décision. C’est le combat que je mène depuis mon élection comme membre suppléante du groupe constitutif « Femmes, jeunes filles et enfants » de l’Instance de Coordination Nationale (CCM) du Fonds mondial au Burkina Faso.

Le CCM, un rôle crucial mais peu de femmes à la table

Le CCM est un comité national qui présente les demandes de financement de notre pays au Fonds mondial et assure le suivi stratégique des subventions pour lutter contre le VIH/sida, la tuberculose et le paludisme. Un rôle crucial dans lequel nous, les femmes, restons pourtant sous-représentées.

Mon implication active au sein du CCM

C’est pour changer cette situation que je me suis engagée, avec le soutien du programme Voix Essentielles qui promeut le leadership féminin. Au sein du CCM, je ne me contente pas d’être présent. Je m’implique activement dans les processus clés, comme les négociations avec les instances décisionnelles du Fonds mondial.

En tant que membre de l’équipe focale, je travaille avec mes pairs à l’acquisition d’une nouvelle subvention qui sera déterminante pour renforcer le système de santé de notre pays et surtout garantir l’accès des malades aux soins et médicaments essentiels. C’est une immense responsabilité que je suis fière d’assumer en tant que jeune femme leader issue d’une organisation à base communautaire. Mon engagement dans ce comité témoigne de ma volonté de porter la voix des femmes afin d’influencer les décisions stratégiques qui impactent nos vies.

L’atelier Voix Essentielles à Abidjan, une expérience inspirante

En février dernier, j’ai eu la chance de participer à un atelier de renforcement des capacités et de partage d’expériences organisé par l’initiative Voix Essentielles à Abidjan. Pendant quatre jours, j’ai été nourrie humainement et intellectuellement grâce aux belles rencontres avec d’autres jeunes femmes leaders du Sénégal et de la Côte d’Ivoire.

Un des temps forts a été l’événement de haut niveau sur « l’importance des plateformes, des espaces de dialogues et de la représentation dans le cadre de la lutte contre les violences basées sur le genre et pour l’atteinte de l’égalité Femme-Homme ». J’ai eu l’honneur d’y intervenir en tant que panéliste pour partager mon expérience au sein du CCM et ma vision pour renforcer le leadership des femmes dans ces instances.

Porter les préoccupations spécifiques des femmes à tous les niveaux

Car au-delà de ma présence au sein du CCM que j’espère inspirante, je veille surtout à ce que nos préoccupations et besoins spécifiques soient pris en compte à tous les niveaux. Nous, les femmes, sommes aux deux bouts de la chaîne sanitaire. La prise en compte de notre voix est indispensable pour accélérer le contrôle et l’élimination des pandémies combattues par le Fonds mondial.

Mon expertise de terrain, ma mission et ma vision

Nous, les jeunes filles issues de la communauté, avons notre place dans ces instances car nous connaissons les réalités du terrain. Nous saurons porter les vrais problèmes là où il faudra et même proposer des solutions adéquates.

Représenter dignement ma communauté, faire entendre la voix des femmes au plus haut niveau, inspirer d’autres jeunes filles à prendre des responsabilités est la mission que je me suis donnée. Elle est immense mais ô combien essentielle pour une couverture sanitaire universelle.

Construisons ensemble l’avenir de la lutte contre les pandémies

Des rencontres comme celle d’Abidjan renforcent ma détermination. Ensemble, nous, jeunes femmes leaders, ouvrons la voie à une nouvelle génération d’activistes engagés pour faire de l’égalité femmes-hommes et de la santé pour toutes une réalité. Et si c’était ça, l’avenir de la lutte contre les grandes pandémies ? Je veux le croire. Avec votre soutien, tout est possible. Ensemble, faisons entendre la voix des femmes !

Amanda Sawadogo

Secrétaire Générale de l’Association Soutien aux enfants et femmes vulnérables

Membre de l’Instance de Coordination Nationale du Fonds mondial

February 22, 2024, Abidjan, Ivory Coast – Public-private partnerships, multisectoral collaboration, self-esteem, gender-based violence, the intersection between gender and public health, and positive masculinity were among the topics discussed at the event « The Importance of Platforms, Dialogue Spaces, and Representation in the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence and for Achieving Gender Equality » organized as part of the Voix EssentiELLES initiative in Abidjan, on February 20, 2024. An initiative aimed at strengthening organizations led by women and girls, in all their diversity, by engaging them meaningfully in decision-making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programs. Implemented by Speak Up Africa and co-financed by the Global Fund and the CHANEL Foundation, the initiative, launched in 2021, now includes 39 community-based organizations in Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Burkina Faso.

We know that if we want to end the diseases and scourges affecting our communities and economies, it is essential that health policies effectively address gender issues by integrating the experiences and lived realities of women and girls.

Professor Mamadou Samba, Director General of Health of Ivory Coast during his opening speech

The event highlighted exchanges and panel discussions between Dr. Danielle Adjafi, President of the CCM (Country Coordination Mechanism) of Ivory Coast, Yacine Djibo, Executive Director of Speak Up Africa, Ghislain Coulibaly, Sociologist President of the Network of Men Committed to Gender Equality in Ivory Coast, Nene Fofana, Founder of Africa Forward Consulting Group, Aïssata Sidibé, Founder and CEO of Afrique Femme, Amanda Savadogo, General Secretary of the Support Association for Vulnerable Children and Women, Sylvie Diack, Coordinator of the Kolda Young Girls’ Club, and Aicha Ouédraogo from the Association Tends-moi la main.

Voix EssentiELLES embodies our commitment to amplifying the voices of women and girls in decision-making spaces. Their leadership is essential to shaping inclusive and equitable health policies.

Yacine Djibo, Executive Director of Speak Up Africa during the first panel on « Leadership, Representation, and Collaboration: The Power of Connectivity to Accelerate Gender Equality and the Health of Women and Girls in West Africa. »

Women, at the heart of their communities, must be integrated into decision-making spaces, as they are better able to speak about field issues.

Amanda Savadogo, a member of the CCM of Burkina Faso.

The Government of Canada is a staunch supporter of the Global Fund and a champion of gender equality. In November 2022, during the « 16 Days of Activism » campaign, His Excellency Mr. Anderson Blanc, Ambassador of Canada to Ivory Coast, and his team met with a team of Voix EssentiELLES from Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast. A #HeForShe champion, he stated during his speech at the event:

Canada, through its feminist international aid policy, is deeply committed to promoting gender equality and actively supports the empowerment of women and girls. As such, we support the Voix EssentiELLES initiative, because Canada firmly believes that women and girls must be at the heart of decision-making processes, encouraging them to contribute to the development of health policies and programs. Women have the right to speak up. Let’s hear their voices! For them, for inclusive development, and the prosperity of their communities!

His Excellency Mr. Anderson Blanc, Ambassador of Canada to Ivory Coast

Violence against women and girls is today one of the most widespread human rights challenges in the world. One in three women is a victim of some form of physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. Violence against women and girls is rooted in gender inequality, discrimination, and harmful cultural and social norms that emphasize men’s superiority over women, normalize violence against women, and allow perpetrators to act with impunity.

During the second panel on « Platforms, Partners, and Coalitions Working Together to End Gender-Based Violence in Ivory Coast and Africa, » Ghislain Coulibaly, Founder and President of the Network of Men Committed to Gender Equality, also a sociologist and Gender Specialist, discussed positive masculinity as an alternative to reducing gender-based violence in Africa

Positive masculinity is a new alternative for effective reduction of gender-based violence in Africa.

Ghislain Coulibaly, Founder and President of the Network of Men Committed to Gender Equality, also a sociologist and Gender Specialist

France, a Founding Member of the Global Fund, was represented by Ms. Emmanuelle Espié, Regional Health Advisor at the French Embassy in Ivory Coast, who reaffirmed the country’s commitment to global health, and to women’s health:

Supporting African women is fundamental to building resilient communities and promoting gender equality. We must be aware of our realities and responsibilities.

Ms. Emmanuelle Espié, Regional Health Advisor at the French Embassy in Ivory Coast

At the previous Resource Replenishment Conference in September 2022, France pledged 1.596 billion euros, a 23% increase over its previous contribution. This commitment demonstrates the country’s strong commitment to positioning global health as a priority of French development policy, which is also reflected in its recent global health strategy for 2023-2027.

To conclude the exchange session, Irad Gbazale, a Voix EssentiELLES from Ivory Coast, activist, and President of the organization Women in Action, based in Agboville, stated: « We must be ready to face challenges and inspire change throughout Africa. Gender-based violence is a scourge for all of us. Do not be afraid to speak the truth. Shame must change sides. » When women and girls are empowered and supported to play a role in the decision-making process, truly effective health policies and programs that take into account gender differences and cultural sensitivities can be developed and implemented, building on the lived experience of women and girls. Thus, Voix EssentiELLES aims to strengthen female leadership and support women and girls in their diversity, by investing in the capacities of grassroots organizations to improve health and equality.

22 février 2024, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire – Les partenariats public-privé, la collaboration multisectorielle, l’estime de soi, les violences basées sur le genre, l’intersection entre le genre et la santé publique et la masculinité positive, autant de sujets abordés lors de l’événement « L’importance des plateformes, des espaces de dialogue et de la représentation dans le cadre de la lutte contre les violences basées sur le genre et pour l’atteinte de l’égalité Femme-Homme » organisé dans le cadre de l’initiative Voix EssentiELLES à Abidjan, le 20 février 2024. Une initiative visant à renforcer les organisations dirigées par des femmes et des filles, dans toute leur diversité, en les engageant de manière significative dans les processus et espaces décisionnels qui influencent les politiques et programmes de santé. Mise en œuvre par Speak Up Africa et co-financée par le Fonds mondial et la Fondation CHANEL, l’initiative, lancée en 2021, regroupe à date 39 organisations à base communautaire en Côte d’Ivoire, au Sénégal et au Burkina Faso.

Nous savons que si nous voulons mettre un terme aux maladies et fléaux qui affectent nos communautés et nos économies, il est essentiel que les politiques visant à lutter contre les problèmes de santé prennent en compte efficacement la problématique genre en y intégrant l’expérience, et le vécu des femmes et des filles.

Professeur Mamadou Samba, Directeur Général de la Santé de Côte d’Ivoire en lors de son discours inaugural

L’événement a mis en lumière des échanges et des discussions de panel entre le Dr. Danielle Adjafi, Présidente du CCM (Country Coordination Mechanism en anglais) de Côte d’Ivoire, Yacine Djibo, Directrice Exécutive de Speak Up Africa, Ghislain Coulibaly, Sociologue Président du Réseau des Hommes Engagés pour l’Égalité Femmes-Hommes en Côte d’Ivoire, Nene Fofana, Fondatrice du Groupe de Conseil Africa Forward, Aïssata Sidibé, Fondatrice et PDG d’Afrique Femme, Amanda Savadogo, Secrétaire générale de l’Association d’Appui aux Enfants et Femmes Vulnérables, Sylvie Diack, Coordonnatrice du Club des jeunes filles de Kolda et Aicha Ouédraogo de l’Association Tends-moi la main.

Voix EssentiELLES incarne notre engagement à amplifier les voix des femmes et des filles dans les espaces décisionnels. Leur leadership est essentiel pour façonner des politiques de santé inclusives et équitables.

Yacine Djibo, Directrice exécutive de Speak Up Africa lors du premier panel sur « Leadership, représentation et collaboration : Le pouvoir de la connectivité pour accélérer l’égalité des genres et la santé des femmes et des filles en Afrique de l’Ouest ».

Les femmes, au cœur de leurs communautés, doivent être intégrées dans les espaces décisionnels, car elles sont plus à même de parler des problématiques de terrain.

Amanda Savadogo, membre du CCM du Burkina Faso.

Le Gouvernement du Canada est un fervent partisan du Fonds Mondial et champion de l’égalité des genres. En novembre 2022, à l’occasion de la campagne des « 16 jours d’activisme » Son Excellence Monsieur Anderson Blanc, Ambassadeur du Canada en Côte d’Ivoire avait, avec son équipe, rencontré une équipe de Voix EssentiELLES du Sénégal, du Burkina Faso et de la Côte d’Ivoire. Champion #LuiPourElle, il a ainsi déclaré lors de son allocution à l’événement :

Le Canada, par le biais de sa politique d’aide internationale féministe, est profondément engagé dans la promotion de l’égalité des sexes et soutient activement l’autonomisation des femmes et des filles. À ce titre, nous appuyons l’initiative Voix EssentiELLES, car le Canada croit fermement que les femmes et les filles doivent être placées au cœur des processus décisionnels, en les encourageant notamment à contribuer à l’élaboration des politiques et des programmes de santé. Les femmes ont droit à la parole. Entendons leur voix ! Pour elles, pour le développement inclusif et la prospérité de leurs communautés !

Son Excellence Monsieur Anderson Blanc, Ambassadeur du Canada en Côte d’Ivoire

La violence contre les femmes et les filles constitue aujourd’hui l’un des défis les plus répandus en matière de droits humains dans le monde. Une femme sur trois est victime d’une forme de violence physique ou sexuelle au cours de sa vie. La violence contre les femmes et les filles est enracinée dans l’inégalité du genre, la discrimination et les normes culturelles et sociales néfastes qui mettent l’accent sur la supériorité des hommes sur les femmes, normalisent la violence à l’égard des femmes et permettent aux auteurs d’agir en toute impunité.

Durant le second panel sur les « Plateformes, partenaires et coalitions travaillant ensemble pour mettre fin aux violences basées sur le genre en Côte d’Ivoire et en Afrique », Ghislain Coulibaly, Président fondateur du Réseau des Hommes Engagés pour l’Égalité de Genre, également sociologue et Spécialiste Genre, a discuté de la masculinité positive comme alternative pour réduire les violences basées sur le genre en Afrique : « La masculinité positive est une alternative nouvelle pour une réduction efficace des violences basées sur le genre en Afrique. ».

La France, membre Fondateur du Fonds Mondial, était représentée par Mme Emmanuelle Espié, Conseillère régionale en santé mondiale à l’Ambassade de France en C’ôte d’Ivoire, qui a réaffirmé l’engagement du pays pour la santé globale mais aussi la santé des femmes : « Le soutien aux femmes africaines est fondamental pour construire des communautés résilientes et promouvoir l’égalité de genre. Nous devons prendre conscience de nos réalités et nos responsabilités. ». Lors de la précédente Conférence de reconstitution des ressources en septembre 2022, la France a promis 1,596 milliard d’euros, soit une augmentation de 23 % par rapport à sa contribution précédente. Cet engagement témoigne de l’engagement fort du pays à positionner la santé mondiale comme une priorité de la politique de développement française, ce qui se reflète également dans sa récente stratégie mondiale de santé pour 2023-2027.

Pour conclure la session d’échanges, Irad Gbazale, Voix EssentiELLES de la Côte d’Ivoire, activiste et Présidente de l’organisation Femmes en Action, basée à Agboville a déclaré : « Nous devons être prêtes et prêts à relever les défis et à inspirer le changement à travers l’Afrique. Les violences basées sur le genre sont un fléau pour nous toutes et tous. N’ayons pas peur de dire la vérité. La honte doit changer de camp. »

Lorsque les femmes et les filles sont habilitées et soutenues pour jouer un rôle dans le processus de prise de décision, des politiques et des programmes de santé véritablement efficaces qui tiennent compte des différences entre les sexes et des sensibilités culturelles peuvent être élaborés et mis en œuvre, en s’appuyant sur l’expérience vécue des femmes et des filles. Ainsi, Voix EssentiELLES vise à renforcer le leadership féminin et à soutenir les femmes et les filles dans leur diversité, en investissant dans les capacités des organisations de base pour améliorer la santé et l’égalité.

La Journée internationale de la jeune fille, célébrée chaque 11 octobre, est une initiative mondialement reconnue visant à plaider en faveur des droits et de l’autonomisation des jeunes filles à travers le monde. Rappel nécessaire qui met en exergue le fait que de nombreuses filles dans le monde sont encore confrontées à des défis redoutables, notamment un accès limité à l’éducation, aux soins de santé et au fardeau disproportionné des conséquences du changement climatique. Ces défis soulignent l’urgence de promouvoir l’égalité des genres et le rôle essentiel des jeunes filles dans la promotion du développement durable.

Dans ce cadre, JGEN, une organisation dédiée à la défense des droits et à l’autonomisation des filles au Sénégal, a joué un rôle crucial en collaboration avec Speak Up Africa. Ensemble, ils ont mené une campagne retentissante, dont l’engagement et l’enthousiasme étaient évidents, alors qu’ils se lançaient dans un voyage pour faire la différence à l’occasion de la Journée internationale de la jeune fille. Cette initiative s’inscrit dans le cadre plus large des efforts de Voix EssentiELLES, soulignant l’importance de donner une voix aux filles et aux femmes dans la poursuite d’une société plus équitable.

Le contexte de cette journée inspirante est défini par la campagne régionale « POTENTI’ELLES » un effort collectif à travers l’Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre, axé sur la défense de la promotion et de la protection des droits des filles. Malgré les progrès significatifs réalisés dans les droits des femmes et des filles et l’égalité des genres, de nombreuses filles continuent de faire face à une multitude de défis, de l’accès limité à l’éducation et aux soins de santé, aux conséquences du changement climatique sur leurs conditions. JGEN, en collaboration avec Speak Up Africa, a été en première ligne de cette campagne, travaillant sans relâche pour sensibiliser à ces défis et stimuler l’action collective, démontrant ainsi leur dévouement et leur passion dans leur quête pour faire la différence à l’occasion de la Journée internationale de la fille.

Une journée à Fatick

À Fatick, un rassemblement s’est tenu pour célébrer la journée avec un fort sentiment de détermination. L’ordre du jour était rempli d’événements qui reflétaient l’importance de cette journée et des défis urgents auxquels sont confrontées les jeunes filles. Le point culminant de la journée a été la lecture d’une note de plaidoyer par deux jeunes filles de Fatick, mettant en évidence les conséquences dévastatrices du changement climatique sur leur vie, notamment les perturbations scolaires liées au climat, les chocs économiques sur les ménages sensibles au climat, le risque accru de mariage précoce, de relations sexuelles transactionnelles, d’infection par le VIH et de grossesse précoce en raison du manque d’éducation, entre autres.

Parmi les 100 jeunes filles présentent, deux du Groupes d’enfants JAGAMMAR se sont tenues comme les voix de leur génération, mettant en lumière l’intersection de l’égalité des genres et de l’action climatique. Leurs paroles étaient un rappel du fait que le changement climatique affecte de manière disproportionnée les jeunes filles, qui portent souvent le poids de ses conséquences. Les autorités présentes, dont le Responsable SRAJ, et le coordinateur du CDPE, ont également été témoins de ce plaidoyer poignant, en mettant l’emphase sous la protection et la promotion des droits des enfants dans le département de Fatick.

L’engagement de JGEN

L’engagement de JGEN à autonomiser les jeunes filles est inébranlable. La journée était une démonstration de leur dévouement à s’assurer que chaque fille ait l’opportunité de devenir une leader. Leur focus va au-delà de la sensibilisation et de la prise de conscience – JGEN travaille activement à résoudre des problèmes critiques, tels que l’élévation de l’âge légal du mariage pour les filles à 18 ans, garantir l’accès aux services sociaux de base et atténuer l’impact du changement climatique sur les enfants.

Le soutien de Speak Up Africa

Speak Up Africa croit au potentiel et au pouvoir des jeunes filles pour devenir des agents de changement et des leaders au sein de leurs communautés et reste donc fière de soutenir JGEN dans sa mission. L’organisation reconnaît que l’égalité des genres est au cœur des Objectifs de développement durable (ODD5) des Nations Unies, et en investissant dans les jeunes filles, elles contribuent à la construction d’un avenir plus égal pour tous.

En conclusion, la Journée internationale de la fille a été une journée de célébration, d’autonomisation et de plaidoyer. C’était l’occasion d’écouter les voix des jeunes filles qui, non seulement rêvent grand, mais travaillent également activement à un avenir meilleur. L’engagement de JGEN en collaboration avec Speak Up Africa, a été à l’avant-garde de la campagne « POTENTI’ELLES », qui s’inscrit dans le cadre plus large des initiatives de Voix EssentiELLES. Ensemble, Speak Up Africa et JGEN travaillent pour faire la différence, et la Journée internationale de la fille rappelle que les rêves et les aspirations des jeunes filles méritent d’être célébrés et encouragés.

Dakar, 18th July 2023- Alongside the Women Deliver 2023 conference taking place in Kigali, Rwanda, Voix EssentiELLES, Her Voice Fund, Speak Up Africa, Y+ Global, ViiV Healthcare Positive Action, and the Global Fund hosted a side event on the theme « Advancing gender equality through investing in women and girl’s meaningful engagement in decision-making spaces ». This event kicks off the second phase of Voix EssentiELLES, an initiative supported by Fondation CHANEL and the Global Fund and aimed at empowering women and girls and promote their participation in decision-making processes and spaces.

This year, 2023, marks the twentieth anniversary of the Maputo Protocol on African Women’s Rights. This protocol established African women’s rights guarantee as a fundamental condition for sustainable development. Yet women still face multiple barriers in accessing healthcare, education, economic opportunities, and decision-making bodies in Africa. Organized as part of the Women Deliver 2023 conference, the event was an opportunity to highlight the voices of community organization, women and girls, activists and funders committed to tackling health, economic, religious, and socio-cultural barriers to the development of women and girls in all their diversity.

Larissa Bachia, Senior Program Lead at IDEO, emphasized the need for a community-based approach to the design and implementation of gender equality programmes. “We need to neutralize hierarchies, reinforce girl’s agency, and ensure they have the means for active participation. They should sit on a table with funders and implementing organizations as peers. We need to embrace new ways of working. We can be subject matter experts, but decision-making on what will work and what will not work should be left for those whose lives are affected by the solutions we design and implement” she commented.

Participants from feminist organizations, women’s networks, civil society, private sector, and philanthropic organizations discussed best practices, approaches and lessons learned from women-led initiatives to promote gender equality. The event featured inter-connected themes including: What Works- featuring promising initiatives, success factors and bottlenecks within collaborative initiatives that address multiple needs of women and networks and Strategic Partnerships – interrogating funders and women and girls can collaborate better, building alliances, leverage on each others’ expertise, influence policies, programmes and financing towards advancing gender equality and meaningful participation.

Jennifer Van, President of “Jeunes engagées pour la sexualité”, a Voix EssentiELLES Fund      grantee in Côte d’Ivoire in 2021 and 2022, was one of the panelists. She highlighted her organization’s significant achievements and impact in fighting gender-based violence and inequality in Côte d’Ivoire. She also emphasized the urgent need to invest in women’s leadership and empowerment and the need for long-term funding for organizations like hers.

« Through the Voix EssentiELLES initiative, we have helped hundreds of young girls take control of their sexual health by avoiding risky sexual behavior. It is vital to support women-led organizations working to eliminate gender inequality, as women’s empowerment is a key lever for sustainable and equitable development in Africa, » said Jennifer Van.

The meeting also provided participants with an opportunity to explore new partnership opportunities and innovative financing to support community-based initiative to ensure that gender equality becomes a reality. The speakers highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships in increasing investments and finding innovative ways to accelerate progress towards advancing gender equality.

« There are still enormous challenges to achieving gender equality and we must leverage the skills and contributions of all. Governments and businesses must work together with women and girls in all their diversity to create an inclusive ecosystem where women and girls can thrive and contribute fully to development, » said Kate Thomson, Head of Community, Rights and Gender at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Maximina Jokonya, coordinator of the HER Voice Fund, believes that public-private partnerships can be a powerful strategy for ending gender inequality and amplifying women and girls’ voices. « It is crucial that the public and private sectors pool their resources and expertise to drive social change and achieve gender equality. The synergy of their actions can lead to the implementation of inclusive policies, the creation of positive role models and the development of women as leaders and decision-makers, » said Maximina Jokonya.

Fara Ndiaye, Deputy Executive Director of Speak Up Africa, emphasized that collaboration between the public and private sectors is a key strategy in all Speak Up Africa interventions, including gender equality initiatives.

« As once a younger, smaller organization with what was considered lower absorptive financial capacity, we feel tremendously blessed to now be in a position where we can strengthen the capacities and unleash the potential of dozens of grassroots organizations across West Africa. With this second phase, we strive for increased impact as we further build trust and sustainable relationships with our grantees”, she concluded.

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