Voix EssentiELLES initiative launched to elevate women and girls’ voices for health

Voix EssentiELLES initiative

Women and girls’ (in all their diversity) community-based organizations in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal invited to apply for support through new dedicated fund

Today, Senegalese advocacy action tank Speak Up Africa, in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Fondation CHANEL, launched the Voix EssentiELLES initiative that aims to elevate women and girls’ voices, by meaningfully engaging them in decision-making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programs.

Launched on the sidelines of the Generation Equality Forum, a UN global gathering for gender equality taking place this week, Voix EssentiELLES seeks to enable the significant participation of women and girls’ community-based and grassroot organizations, networks, and leaders in decision-making platforms. With applications now open and support available to 50 organizations, the project will strengthen their competencies and skills to influence policies and programs that affect their health and well-being.

Women and girls’ community-based organizations and networks in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal are invited to apply for support through a dedicated fund, with plans to expand to additional countries in Central and Western Africa over the next three years. Each organization can apply for a grant of up to XOF 5 million (US$10,000) to enable them to participate in and inform health programs and policies in their countries.

Through the Initiative, successful organizations will be offered a personalized training program that will allow women and girls’ community-based organizations across Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal to reinforce their organizational, leadership, advocacy and communications skills. Training modules, tailored to the needs of the selected organizations based on a capacity assessment as well as each country’s national context, will be dispensed through the University of Excellence in the three countries.

“Women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV, TB and malaria and the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse our hard-won gains and progress towards gender equality,” said Caty Fall Sow, Regional Manager of West and Central Africa of the Global Fund. “The Global Fund is honoured to be part of Voix EssentiELLES to continue unleashing women and girls’ voices and to support their meaningful engagement in the development of health policies that affect their health and well-being”.

Despite progress, the world is far from reaching gender equality, and it has been estimated that women will not achieve pay or leadership equality with men for at least another 135.6 years. Yet, gender equality is critical to the rebuilding of more sustainable economies, societies, and political ecosystems.

“Sustainable development in Africa will not become a reality without the active participation of women and girls. It is crucial to have initiatives such as Voix EssentiELLES, which aim to provide a rallying point for civil society organizations and unite energies in an endogenous dynamic of reflection based on the different experiences of women at the micro and/or local level” stated Prof. Ndioro Ndiaye, Coordinator of the Network for Gender Equality at the International Organization of La Francophonie and former Minister of Women and Family Affairs of Senegal.

Coupled with the University of ExcELLEnce, Speak Up Africa will organize advocacy meetings in each country with key stakeholders and selected women and girls’ organizations, to maximize their inclusion into national coalitions and decision-making spaces and processes in their respective countries.

“As an African, women-led organization, we feel passionately about the issues that Voix EssentiELLES seeks to address, which is why we are delighted to manage this important project. It is critical that women and girls take ownership of their health and are empowered to play their part in the decision-making spaces, so that they can develop policies that work for them and future generations. We look forward to working with community-based organizations across Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, and I hope that many take advantage of this game-changing opportunity and submit their applications now.” concluded Yacine Djibo, Executive Director of Speak Up Africa.

To mark the launch of this transformative Initiative and Fund, Speak Up Africa organized an intergenerational and cross-sectoral panel, featuring a keynote speech from Professor Ndioro Ndiaye, Former Minister of Women and Family Affairs of Senegal and Coordinator of the Francophone Network for Gender Equality at the International Organization of La Francophonie. The panel convened speakers including:

Fatou Diallo, National President of Bajenou Gox
Nogaye Sow, Bajenou Gox of Thienaba, President of the Thienaba Health Mutual
El Hadj Diop, President of AISM Thienaba and Vice-Chair, Global Fund Country Coordination Mechanism
Marieme Soda Ndiaye, the youngest Senegalese Member of Parliament
Sylvie Diack, Radio Host

“Civil society organizations are critical for representing and elevating the voices of the people. Projects such as Voix EssentiELLES will go a long way in supporting women and girls in local communities, ensuring they have due influence in wider health policies and programs”, said Nogaye Sow, Neighborhood Godmother, Thienaba, Senegal.

As part of the launch of the Voix EssentiELLES project, community dialogues will be held in Thienaba, Senegal, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and Dabou, Cote d’Ivoire. These conversations will enable us to further engage with the communities and gather feedback on the Voix EssentiELLES Initiative and how it can better engage and serve communities.

Voix EssentiELLES directly supports Sustainable Development Goal 5 and the Generation Equality Forum Action Coalition’s commitment on Feminist Movements & Leadership, which seeks to increase the meaningful participation, leadership, and decision-making power of girl, women and feminist leaders, including those who are trans, intersex and non-binary by 2026.

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