Voice, decision-making and leadership are vital factors for the empowerment of women. These factors ensure that women can express their preferences, demands, views and interests, and that they can gain access to decision-making positions.

Voix EssentiELLES aims to strengthen women and girls, in all of their diversity, by meaningfully engaging them in decision-making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programs.

Managed by the Dakar-based policy and advocacy tank Speak Up Africa, and strategically supported and co-funded by Fondation CHANEL and The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria. Voix EssentiELLES will channel small funds through a dedicated fund and invest in the capacities of community based, grassroots organizations, groups and networks as well as their leaders.

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Gender equality

Women contribute substantially to the economy of the African continent. Whether they are farmers or entrepreneurs, these women are more economically active than women in any other region of the world. However, throughout the ages, these same women have been systematically excluded from decision-making spaces and programmes that affect their health and well-being.

When women and girls are empowered and supported to play a role in the decision-making process, then truly effective health policies and programs that consider gender differences and cultural sensitivities , can be developed and implemented, informed by the lived experience of women and girls.

The facts

More than 640 million women worldwide aged 15 and over have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partners.

While women have made important inroads into political office across the world, their representation in national parliaments at 23.7%is still far from parity.

In 46 countries, women now hold more than 30 per cent of seats in national parliament in at least one chamber.

It’s estimated that – based on current progress – women will not achieve pay or leadership equity with men for at least another 135.6 years.

At the current pace, gender gaps will potentially take 121.7 years to close  in sub-Saharan Africa.

Women are 24% more vulnerable to losing their jobs and suffering steeper falls in income.

Less than 1% of global Development Assistance Committee aid for gender equality and women’s empowerment goes to women’s rights organizations.

Our solution

Voix EssentiELLES aims to strengthen women and girls, in all of their diversity meaningful engagement in decision-making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programs.

The initiative's objectives

To enable the participation of women and girls’ community-based / grassroot organizations, networks and leaders in decision-making platforms at different levels relevant for their health outcomes.

To strengthen their capacities and skills to influence policies, laws and programs that affect their health and well-being.

Implementing countries

Historically, women and girls have been widely excluded from decision-making spaces and programs that affect their health and well-being. This is especially so in francophone Western and Central Africa, which are regions characterized by persistent social, economic and political gender inequalities.

The first phase of the 3-year Voix EssentiELLES project is starting in July 2021 and is managed by Speak Up Africa to support grassroots women and girls’ organizations and networks in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal.

The impact of Essential Voices from Burkina Faso in 2022
The impact of Essential Voices from Senegal in 2022
The impact of Essential Voices of the Ivory Coast in 2022


Speak Up Africa, The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria, Foundation CHANEL unite to ensure meaningful engagement of women and girls, in their diversity, in decision making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programs.

Headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, Speak Up Africa is a policy and advocacy action tank dedicated to catalyzing leadership, enabling policy change, and increasing awareness for sustainable development in Africa. With ensuring health and well-being of all at its core, Speak Up Africa supports SDGs 1 to 6 in transforming societies throughout Africa and making sure every man, woman, and child is empowered to live a long and healthy life.

The Global Fund is a partnership designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. As an international organization, the Global Fund mobilizes and invests more than US$4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries. In partnership with governments, civil society, technical agencies, the private sector and people affected by the diseases, the Global Fund challenges barriers and embraces innovation.

Since 2011, Fondation CHANEL supports projects on all continents with financial, human and technical means, giving priority to stable countries. It commits to long term partnerships that promote scaling up, social innovation, and quality interventions. By opening new ways of empowering women and of conceiving gender equality, it adapts its solutions individually and promotes personalized support.

The Advisory Council

Composed of experts and partners, the Advisory Committee aims to provide advice and guidance to the Speak Up Africa team, particularly in the development and implementation of a robust engagement strategy and capacity building programme for beneficiary organisations.
This Committee contributes to the planning and engagement process and helps to assess options and opportunities for achieving the strategic objectives of the project.


Prof. Ndioro Ndiaye

President of the Senegalese Advisory Council, Coordinator of the Francophone Network for Gender Equality, International Organisation of La Francophonie.


Ms Ndeye Mingue N'Diaye Gacko

Ndèye Mingué is a midwife by training, a senior health technician, a Master II in reproductive health, population and development, and a gender expert. Since 2013, she has been the coordinator of the gender unit of the Ministry of Health and Social Action.


Ms Nogaye Sow

"Badiénou Gokh" President of the Thienaba health mutual, Member of the local cereal processing unit of GIE Fass Diom


Ms Rajah Sy

National Director of Special Olympics Senegal


Mr. Arthur Athea

Head of NGO Association Anonyme


Sister Emmanuelle

Founder and Head of the NGO Y-Voir et Sourire


Ms Aissata Sidibé N'Dia

President, Yelenba, Women in Action


Ms Awa Sylla

Technical Advisor to the Minister for Women, Family and Children


Ms Kadoua Abem

Secretary General of the Djouatiina Association and of the Network of Associations for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Nahouri.


Mr. Joseph Ido

National Executive Secretary of the African Youth Health Network (AYHN)


Mr Simon Kaboré

Executive Director RAME (Access to Essential Medicines Network)


Prof. Nicolas Méda

Executive Director of the Innovation Center for Development in Burkina Faso


Ms Cécile Thiombano

Head of Advocacy Médecin du Monde France