As part of the second African LeadHERs' Forum, Speak Up Africa organized a series of webinars called "Webinars of equality". Held on the sidelines of International Women's Day on the theme "Digital spaces to achieve gender equality", these webinars aimed to amplify the voices of women from various sectors - from community-based organizations to pan-African sports organizations inside and outside the continent - to highlight the urgency of reducing gender inequalities around the world.
114 participants from Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, France, and Senegal took part in these virtual conversations held on March 14 and 28. The webinars brought together a dozen speakers from various sectors, including health, civil society, and sport. The first one convened the Voix EssentiELLES and was held on the theme "Voix EssentiELLES, all committed to a more inclusive world" while the second focused on "Leadership, Mentorship and Diasporas: the power of sport to achieve gender equality".
During the first virtual meeting, the Voix EssentiELLES speakers highlighted the need to address inequalities that prevent women from accessing digital services.
Gender inequalities in digital access remain persistent throughout the world. In Africa, for example, it is estimated that nearly 80% of women do not have access to digital technology. In the case of mobile internet use, the gap between men and women on the continent is 37% in 2022.
The Voix EssentiELLES recalled that these limited access to digital space accentuate gender inequalities since it prevents women from accessing specific digital services related to health, education, or finance. Women's exclusion from the digital world undermines efforts to achieve gender equity and threatens the progress made in women's rights.
"Covid-19 has shown that digital space is important in the fight for gender equality. Today, thanks to the power of social networks, women's rights activists can have an impact on millions of women’s living conditions even in rural areas."Gbazalé Irad, President of Femmes en action and recipient of the Voix EssentiELLES Fund in Côte d'Ivoire
"The digital space is one of the main factors for women's empowerment. It is a crucial tool to propel the voices of all women to the public sphere on issues that concern them."Aissatou Lopy Mbaye Ndiaye, Vice President of the National Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fund in Senegal.
In addition to these difficulties of access to digital technology, women are the first victims of online violence. In 2021, for example, a study revealed that 85% of women in the world are exposed to violence on the Internet, including harassment.
"It is important to raise awareness about the existence of online violence in Senegal, as there is a real lack of knowledge about this scourge in our communities."Oussama Sagna Monique, Project Manager at JGEN and recipient of the Voix EssentiELLES Fund in Senegal
The second webinar convened several sports personalities such as Diandra Tchatchouang Djadjo, former international basketball player, Axel Toupane, International basketball player, Syra Sylla, President of the association Ladies and Basketball and Marie-Laurence Archambault, CSR Manager at the African Basketball League. They highlighted the need to fight gender stereotypes that persist in the sports world as well as the importance of using digital space to strengthen women's representation in sport.
"Representation in sport is extremely important, as young girls do not imagine themselves in sports careers that they do not see or that are not promoted. In this sense, digital allows us to facilitate the connection between female sports role models and young girls but also to create our own media and platforms to change the narrative about women in sport."Syra Sylla, President of the Ladies and Basketball Association and Head of Communications at Sport Impact
Recipients of Voix EssentiELLES Fund from Burkina Faso, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire are participating in the meeting under the theme "Voix EssentiELLES speak up against gender-based violence". A round table on the regional challenges of the fight against gender-based violence as well as institutional meetings to sensitize communities and policy makers on their role in the elimination of violence against women and girls are on the agenda.
According to a UN Women report published in September 2022, nearly 65% of women worldwide reported having experienced verbal, physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. At least 6 out of 10 women believe that public sexual harassment has worsened since Covid-19. This violence is not only a major obstacle to the elimination of the HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, but also has a significant impact on global economy. Without urgent action, UN Women's report warns, it would take 300 years to close the gap in legal protection or representation of women in power and leadership.
"Urgent action must be taken if we are to meet SDG 5 - achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls - which is essential for sustainable development. Creating a just and prosperous society is impossible when women and girls, key members of our communities, continue to be victims of violence and inequality of all kinds."Abouma Sévérine Nebie, president of Association pour l’Intégration Économique et Sociale des Femmes dans le développement (IES-Femmes) which is involved in Voix EssentiELLES initiative in Burkina Faso
"It is crucial to strengthen the awareness and commitment of all stakeholders for the elimination of gender-based inequalities and violence. In this regard, Voix EssentiELLES organisations meeting in Abidjan is a real springboard."Khady Cissé founder of Organisation pour la Santé de l'Enfant de la Femme et de la Famille (OSEFF), which is involved in the Voix EssentiELLES initiative in Côte d'Ivoire
Launched by Speak Up Africa in 2021 in partnership with CHANEL Foundation and the Global Fund, Voix EssentiELLES initiative promotes the involvement of community-based women and girls’ organizations in decision-making and strengthens their capacity to influence policies that affect their health. With funding from Voix EssentiELLES fund, the organizations involved in the initiative are on the front line to fight violence and inequality against women and girls in their countries.
"Whether it is at health, economic or social level, great progress has been made whenever women and girls have the capacity to express their full potential. It is therefore essential to financially and technically support women's organizations working to strengthen women's leadership and reverse current gender inequalities."Fatimata Mamadou Lamine SY, Executive Secretary of the Association Sénégalaise pour l'avenir de la femme et de l'enfant (ASAFE), which is involved in the Voix EssentiELLES initiative in Senegal
August 12, 2022, Dakar, Senegal - On International Youth Day, young people across the continent are urging their leaders to take more action, innovation and funding to fight malaria. In an open letter, also supported by the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and Speak Up Africa, these young people pledged to eradicate malaria and continue their fight to end the epidemic by 2030.
The African Union's target of a 40% reduction in malaria incidence and mortality by 2020, a critical step in eliminating malaria in Africa by 2030, has not been met. Indeed, WHO estimates indicate that 96% of malaria cases and 98% of malaria deaths worldwide occur in Africa. In 2020, 611,802 Africans died of malaria, 80% of whom were children under 5 years of age. In addition, revised WHO estimates in the World Malaria Report 2021 indicate that the number of malaria deaths was previously underestimated and that the burden is worse than previously thought. Malaria, although preventable and treatable, is responsible for up to $12 billion in lost productivity annually in Africa, significantly impeding economic growth and social progress.
As young people, malaria continues to plague our continent, claiming millions of lives. Despite recent progress, a child still dies of malaria every minute. The open letter is a call to action to decision makers because we, the youth, are convinced that malaria eradication is an achievable goal if we maintain decisive action.Moses Kodah, Executive Director of Naye-Salone.
In response, the youth decided to take action. In this open letter, the youth call on African leaders to contribute to malaria eradication as part of the Agenda 2063 for socio-economic transformation. The letter calls on leaders to renew their commitment to keeping malaria high on national development agendas, mobilize additional resources (including from the domestic public and private sectors), empower communities, strengthen data and evidence-based governance, accelerate the rollout of new malaria interventions and products, actively engage young leaders, and rapidly deploy new tools to address the growing threats of insecticide and drug resistance.
Young people have the potential to end malaria for good. We have seen how young people can advocate, mobilize resources, participate, and lead the response to malaria at a time when the disease is threatening their bright future and stunting their development. Therefore, to make the right investments in malaria programs, research, and innovation and to tailor malaria interventions to save millions of lives, we must build youth ownership into the fight against this disease.Dr. Corine Karema, Acting CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria
A decrease in funding would be disastrous for the global response, setting the stage for a sharp increase in malaria cases, and to make meaningful progress against the disease, increased funding is essential. That is why the open letter urges African leaders to fight for what matters and emphasizes the importance of a successful replenishment of the Global Fund in 2022, which aims to secure at least US$ 18 billion from world leaders to save 20 million lives and put the world back on track to eradicate HIV, TB and malaria. The Global Fund is critical to sustaining life-saving health and malaria services.
Because of the burden that women and girls continue to bear from diseases such as malaria, it is crucial that they are represented in decision-making spaces. " It is crucial to amplify the voices of young women and girls in key decision-making spaces, especially when it comes to our health and well-being. With active political participation of women and girls as well as financial support for women-led organizations, we will be the generation that can achieve the goal of ending malaria by 2030. I am fighting for what matters and will continue to do so until this epidemic is eliminated." Farida Tiemtore, President, Les Héroïnes du Faso and recipient of the Fund Essential Voices implemented by Speak Up Africa in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal, with support from the Global Fund and the CHANEL Foundation.
Malaria is keeping young people, their future children and African economies from reaching their full potential, so we must all fight for what matters, and fight now.
On the occasion of International Youth Day, young people across the continent are calling upon their leaders for more sustained action, innovation, and funding to fight back against malaria. In an open letter, also supported by The RBM Partnership to End Malaria and Speak Up Africa, young people vow to be the generation to end malaria, and to not stop fighting until they end this disease as an epidemic by 2030.
The African Union goal of reducing malaria incidence and mortality by 40% by 2020, a key milestone to eliminating malaria in Africa by 2030, was missed. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 96% of global malaria cases and 98% of malaria deaths occur on the continent. In 2020, 611,802 Africans died from this disease of which 80% were children under the age of 5. Furthermore, revised estimates by the WHO in the 2021 World Malaria Report indicate that the number of malaria deaths was previously underestimated, and the burden is worse than previously understood. Malaria is a driver for up to $12 billion in lost productivity in Africa annually, drastically impeding economic growth and societal progress despite it being preventable and treatable.
As young people we are concerned that Malaria continues to plague our continent taking millions of lives and despite recent progress, a child still dies from malaria every minute. The open letter is a call-to-action to decision makers because we, young people, believe that ending malaria is an attainable goal if we sustain decisiveMoses Kodah, Executive Director, Naye-Salone.
In response, young people have decided to take action. The open letter turns up the pressure on African leaders to achieve a malaria-free world in line with Agenda 2063 for socio-economic transformation. Calling on leaders to recommit to keeping malaria high on national development agendas, mobilize additional resources (especially from the domestic public and private sector), empower communities to act, strengthen data and evidence-based governance, accelerate the deployment of new malaria commodities and interventions, actively engage youth leaders and rapidly deploy the new tools to address the growing threats of insecticide and drug resistance.
Young people have the potential to end malaria for good. We have seen how young people can advocate, mobilize resources, participate in, and lead the malaria response as the disease threatens their bright future and holds back their development. That is why, to make the right investments in malaria programs, research, and innovation and tailor malaria interventions to save millions of lives, we must integrate youth ownership into the fight against malaria.Dr. Corine Karema, Interim CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria
A decrease in financing would be dire for the global response, paving the way for a steep rise in malaria cases, and in order to make significant progress against the disease, an increase in financing is critical. This is why the open letter urges African Heads of States and Governments to fight for what counts and reinforces the importance of a successful replenishment of the Global Fund in 2022, which seeks to secure at least US$18 billion from global leaders to save 20 million lives and get the world back on track toward ending HIV, TB and malaria. The Global Fund is critical to sustaining life-saving malaria and health services.
Due to the burden that women and girls continue to bear as a result of diseases such as malaria, it is crucial that they are represented in decision making spaces. "It is crucial to amplify the voices of young women and girls in key decision-making spaces, especially when it comes to our health and well-being. With active political participation of women and girls and financial support for women-led organizations, we will be the generation that can achieve the goal of ending malaria by 2030. I am fighting for what matters and will continue to do so until this epidemic is eliminated." Farida Tiemtore, President, Les Héroïnes du Faso and recipient of the Essential Voices Fund implemented by Speak Up Africa in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal, with the support of the Global Fund and the Fondation CHANEL.
The disease is stopping young people, their future children, and African economies from reaching their full potential, we therefore all must fight for what counts, and fight now.
It is time for action, financial commitments and a concerted response. With the 7th Replenishment Conference just weeks away, the Global Fund is sounding the alarm on the fight against HIV, TB and malaria.
Montreal - Ouagadougou - Dakar - More than 9,500 people have gathered in Montreal, Canada, from July 29 to August 2, 2022 to participate in and attend the 24th International Conference on HIV/AIDS, the first global platform for the response to the disease. Communities, people living with HIV/AIDS, policy makers, media, activists and civil society organizations are unanimous that progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS has stalled. Globally, the number of infections has stabilized at 1.5 million in 2021, the same number as in 2020. Who is to blame? The COVID-19 pandemic? Certainly, but even before it hit, the world was off track for HIV, TB, and malaria goals.
Progress in reducing the number of people newly infected with HIV is slowing. Between 2020 and 2021, the world saw the smallest annual decline in new HIV infections since 2016. In 2021, women and girls accounted for the majority of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 3 in 4 new infections among young people are among adolescent girls and young women.Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director
The need for action is urgent. To this end, and shortly after the opening ceremony of the HIV Conference, the Global Fund organized a satellite session on 29 July 2022 entitled "Fighting for What Matters: Maximizing Health Equity, Gender Equality and Human Rights in the Fight Against HIV". Opened by Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, the symposium looked at the results achieved after 20 years of scaling up the Fund's programs and interventions, as well as at remaining and emerging challenges. Two panels, moderated by Maelle Ba, Strategic Communications Manager at Speak Up Africa, highlighted successful partnerships and the importance of community leadership. Farida Tiemtore, a 23-year-old activist, President of Héroïnes du Faso and recipient of the Voix EssentiELLEs Fund, also joined the discussions on the first panel, "20 Years of Impact, What Worked and Why? ", online from her native Burkina: " Faced with the urgency of eradicating HIV/AIDS, Voix EssentiELLES in Burkina is fighting for what matters by raising awareness, informing, strengthening advocacy for better prevention and response of young girls and women to the disease and I am convinced that we will succeed in eliminating it by 2030." Launched in 2021 and with 35 community-based organizations led by women in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal, the Voix EssentiELLEs initiative, implemented by Speak Up Africa in partnership with the Global Fund and the CHANEL Foundation, aims to support and stimulate the impact of health policies and programs by ensuring the engagement of women and girls, in all their diversity, in decision-making spaces.
This initiative is in line with the Global Fund's new strategy "Fighting Pandemics and Building a Healthier, More Equitable World," which places people and communities at the heart of the fight against HIV, TB and malaria. In the second panel, "What are our next steps and how can we ensure we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?", Grace Ngulube, Founder of Youth Health Connect 360 and HERVOICE Fund Ambassador for Malawi, reaffirmed the importance of a fully funded Global Fund:
The Global Fund invites us all to fight for what matters. I matter, you matter, young women matter. Now is the time to prove it. Funding the Global Fund is about showing that our lives matter. I hope that with significant funding, we can do more to address gender inequality, defend the rights of adolescent girls and young women, and ensure that girls are free of HIV.Grace Ngulube, Founder of Youth Health Connect 360 and HERVOICE Fund Ambassador for Malawi
In 2021, the increase in the number of people on HIV treatment was the lowest in more than a decade. Although three-quarters of all HIV-positive people have access to antiretroviral treatment, about 10 million do not, and only half of HIV-positive children have access to life-saving drugs. In the same year, the AIDS epidemic was responsible for an average of one death per minute, or 650,000 AIDS-related deaths, despite the availability of effective HIV treatment and tools to prevent, detect, and treat opportunistic infections.
In addition to Peter Sands, Farida Tiemtore and Grace Ngulube, the Global Fund also gathered the views, expertise and comments of Her Excellency Stéphanie Seydoux, France's Ambassador for Global Health, Dr. Joe Phaahla, South Africa's Minister of Health, Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director, Joshua Tabah, Director General of Health and Nutrition at Global Affairs Canada, Dr. Angeli Achrekar, Senior Deputy Coordinator at the US Global HIV Program, Javier Hourcade Bellocq from the Community Delegation to the Global Fund Board, and Lindsay Glassco, President of the Global Fund. Also present were Dr. Angeli Achrekar, Senior Deputy Coordinator, Global HIV Program, United States; Javier Hourcade Bellocq of the Global Fund Board Community Delegation; and Lindsay Glassco, President and CEO of Plan International Canada.
2022 is a pivotal year and marks a turning point in the fight against HIV, TB, and malaria. While communities have shown remarkable resilience and changed their programs to ensure that people living with HIV and key populations are not left behind, their commitment and determination has clearly demonstrated the need for sustained and increased support from the Global Fund. The Global Fund has also shown remarkable flexibility, moving quickly to help countries strengthen their health systems, access emergency inputs, respond to COVID-19, and adjust their HIV, TB, and malaria programs. The future is uncertain, but the goal is clear: the Global Fund must be fully funded, with at least $18 billion for the period 2023-2025.
Either we increase funding or we give up hope of ending these epidemics by 2030Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund
The time is for action, financial commitments and a concerted response. A few weeks before its7th Replenishment Conference, the Global Fund is sounding the alarm in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
Montreal - Ouagadougou - Dakar - More than 9,500 people met in Montreal, Canada, from July 29 to August 2, to attend the24th International Conference on HIV/AIDS, the first global platform in terms of disease response. Communities, people living with HIV/AIDS, policymakers, media, activists and civil society organizations are unanimous: the progress made in the fight against HIV/AIDS has stalled. Globally, the number of infections stabilized at 1.5 million in 2021, the same number as in 2020. But whose at fault? The COVID-19 pandemic? Certainly, but even before it hit, the world had already strayed from the trajectory of the HIV, TB and malaria targets.
Progress in reducing the number of people newly infected with HIV is slowing down. Between 2020 and 2021, the world has seen the smallest annual decline in new HIV infections since 2016. In 2021, women and girls accounted for the majority of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa and more than 3 in 4 new infections among young people concern adolescent girls and young women.Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
We need to act, now. To this end, and shortly after the opening ceremony of the HIV Conference, the Global Fund organized a satellite session on July 29, 2022 entitled "Fighting for what counts: maximizing health equity, gender equality and human rights in the fight against HIV". Opened by Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, this symposium looked back on the results obtained after 20 years of scaling up the Fund's programs and interventions, but also on the remaining and emerging challenges. Two panels, moderated by Maelle Ba, Speak Up Africa's Strategic Communications Manager, highlighted successful partnerships but also the importance of community leadership. Farida Tiemtore, a 23-year-old young activist, President of "Les Héroïnes Faso" and recipient of the Voix EssentiELLES' Fund, remotely joined the first panel "20 years of impact, what worked and why?" : " Faced with the urgency of eradicating HIV/AIDS, the Voix EssentiELLEs of Burkina fight for what counts by raising awareness, informing, strengthening advocacy for better prevention and response of young girls and women facing the disease and I am convinced that we will end it by 2030. Launched in 2021 and strong of 35 community-based women-led organizations in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and in Senegal, the Voix EssentiELLEs initiative, implemented by Speak Up Africa in partnership with the Global Fund and the CHANEL Foundation, aims to support and stimulate the impact of health policies and programs by ensuring the commitment of women and girls, in all their diversity, in decision-making spaces.
This initiative is in line with the Global Fund's new strategy "Fighting pandemics and building a healthier and more equitable world," which puts people and communities at the heart of the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. During the second panel "What are our next steps and how can we ensure we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?" Grace Ngulube, Founder of Youth Health Connect 360 and HERVOICE Fund Ambassador for Malawi reaffirmed the importance of a fully funded Global Fund:
The Global Fund invites us all to fight for what counts. I count, you count, young women count. Now is the time to prove it. Financing the Global Fund is showing that our lives are valued. I hope that with significant funding, we can do more to address gender inequalities, uphold the rights of adolescent girls and young women, and ensure that girls are free from HIV.Grace Ngulube, Founder of Youth Health Connect 360 and HERVOICE Fund Ambassador for Malawi
In 2021, the increase in the number of people on HIV treatment was the lowest in more than a decade. Although three-quarters of all HIV-positive people have access to antiretroviral treatment, about 10 million others do not, and only half of HIV-positive children have access to life-saving drugs. In the same year, the AIDS epidemic was responsible for an average of one death per minute, or 650,000 AIDS deaths despite the existence of effective treatment for HIV and tools to prevent, detect and treat HIV infections.
Around Peter Sands, Farida Tiemtore and Grace Ngulube, the Global Fund brought together the opinions, expertise and comments of Her Excellency Stéphanie Seydoux, Ambassador for Global Health of France, Dr. Joe Phaahla, Minister of Health of South Africa, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Joshua Tabah, Director General of Health and Nutrition at Global Affairs of Canada Angeli Achrekar, Principal Deputy U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Javier Hourcade Bellocq from the Communities Delegation of the Global Fund's Board and finally Lindsay Glassco, President and CEO of Plan International Canada.
2022 is a crucial year and marks a turning point in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. While communities have shown remarkable resilience and changed their programs to ensure that people living with HIV and key populations are not left behind, their commitment and determination has clearly shown how sustained and increased support from the Global Fund is needed. The Global Fund has also shown remarkable flexibility and moved quickly to help countries strengthen their health systems, access emergency supplies, respond to COVID-19 and adjust their HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis programs. The future is uncertain but the goal is clear: the Global Fund must be fully funded, with at least $18 billion for the period 2023-2025.
Either we increase funding or we give up hope of ending these epidemics by 2030Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund
In Dakar, Senegal, to mark Africa Day, not-for-profit organization Speak Up Africa has brought together partners to celebrate the many actors in the development sector.
Almost a year after the launch of the African LeadHERs campaign, which aims to promote and amplify the voices and actions of African women, from all sectors of society, working daily for gender equality, and the first ever African LeadHERs Forum in March 2022, Speak Up Africa is launching its African LeadHERs podcast in collaboration with Entre-Elles, a platform for expression and sharing created by Tombany Kouloufoua.
"The Entre-Elles podcast is extremely proud to be working with Speak Up Africa to launch the African LeadHers podcast series. Amplifying the voice of the world’s women is at the heart of the Entre-Elles mission and we are delighted to be able to celebrate Africa Day alongside the African LeadHers of today and tomorrow."Tombany Kouloufoua, founder of Entre-Elles
The first six-episodes series of the podcast will highlight the profiles and actions of participants in the Voix EssentiELLES initiative, which aims to support women and girls in all of their diversity, by meaningfully engaging them in decision-making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programs. At the podcast’s launch, the Senegalese slam poet Samira Fall took up the subject and developed an audio recital on the importance of women’s voices in the public space. This text echoes the African LeadHERs Forum manifesto to which Ysaora Thibus, fencer and French Olympic medallist, Diandra Tchouatchang, basketball player and French Olympic medallist and Badgyalcassie, choreographer and influencer contributed.
"The African LeadHERs Forum is a very important platform for us, professional athletes, to share our experiences with a focus on transmission and in a spirit of sisterhood. I met some great people there, such as the recipients of the Voix EssentiELLES initiative, who have inspired me enormously. These discussions have changed me and I am convinced that by reclaiming the narrative, we can break the bias."Yasora Thibus in her interview at the Forum
On May 25, Speak Up Africa also presented the Union Sportive de Ouakam with a cheque for one million CFA francs from the Funds allocated to the organization at the first ever Sport Impact Award ceremony organised by Sport Impact. In March 2022, Speak Up Africa received the Jury Prize for the impact of the activity held in January 2021 during the celebration of World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Day. On that day, Speak Up Africa, along with the Yard agency, the Ministry of Health and Social Action and key partners in the fight against NTDs, organized the painting of a participatory fresco on the grounds of US Ouakam, at the foot of the Renaissance Monument, as well as the painting of portraits of Sadio Mané, Omar Sy, Issa Rae and Tacko Fall. The activation generated over 10 million impressions on social networks through the engagement of influencers Observateur and Fatou Guinea and the virality of the content.
"We were delighted to receive the Jury Award from Sport en Commun, which highlights Speak Up Africa’s work in the field of sport and influence, and we are now pleased to continue our collaboration with US Ouakam, enabling them to strengthen their activities and create an attractive environment for women’s sport in communities. The Kigali Summit on NTDs and malaria will take place next month in Rwanda and it is important for us to continue our advocacy through this mural so that everyone continues to say No to NTDs!"Yacine Djibo, Speak Up Africa’s Executive Director
On that day, ahead of the World Menstrual Hygiene Day held every 28 May, Speak Up Africa gave its long-time partner, Special Olympics Senegal, a batch of 1,200 sanitary towels, intended for athletes living with an intellectual disability, to protect themselves better each month, during their menstrual cycle.
"I would like to thank Speak Up Africa for supporting our female athletes by distributing these sanitary towels. Menstruation is a natural reality, but girls and women living with intellectual disabilities often find it more difficult to manage their periods with dignity, and the first barrier is access to tools to help them manage. These sanitary towels will allow our athletes to better manage their periods and thus be able to live their lives more decently ."Rajah Sy, Director of Special Olympics Senegal
From Ouagadougou and Abidjan, Farida Sonia Tiemtore and Pélagie Akoua Kouame took part in the conference to promote the Voix EssentiELLES pilot initiative, implemented by Speak Up Africa, a non-profit strategic communications and advocacy organisation based in Dakar, Senegal, and co-funded by the Global Fund and Fondation CHANEL.
"We are delighted today to meet the heroines working on a daily basis and in their respective communities for gender equality and more specifically the fight against HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. Their stories and their voices are essential to advance our common goals and strengthen the capacity of organisations led by women and girls."Françoise Vanni, Head of External Relations and Communications at the Global Fund
Voix EssentiELLES aaims to support women and girls, in all of their diversity, by meaningfully engaging them in decision-making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programmes in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. Through this pilot, Speak Up Africa and its partners aim to address four main challenges, namely (1) the limited political participation and representation of women and girls in decision-making spaces for policies and programmes that affect their health, (2) deep-rooted harmful socio-cultural practices, including various forms of violence, (3) insufficient and indirect resources dedicated to women-led community organisations, and finally (4) the limited capacity of small grassroots organisations to engage in advocacy work.
"Voix EssentiELLES allows us to carry out real advocacy, at our level and in our communities, in particular for women and young people, who are in my opinion the pillars of our development. We can eliminate HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, but to do so we need a collective solidarity that echoes across borders. From Burkina Faso to Abidjan to Dakar, we are fighting for what’s important, and we are keen to see this project scaled up across the entire sub-region."Farida Sonia Tiemtore, Founder and President of Héroïnes du Faso
Because voice, decision-making and leadership are vital factors for the empowerment of women, the Héroïnes du Faso association works for the well-being of women in the land of honest men (and women). Its goal is to promote respect for women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, social engagement, education and the empowerment of women. Through the Voix EssentiELLES pilot initiative, in which it participates, a catalytic fund of 170 million CFA has been created to support selected women’s and girls’ organisations with achievable time-limited objectives.
"We are working tirelessly on common sustainable development goals for global health. To achieve them, we also need to think about and support the goals of women and girls at community level. Listen to them, support them and fund them, because their solutions and actions must be our guidelines for the development of our strategies and action plans."Stéphanie Seydoux, France’s Ambassador for Global Health
This September, the Global Fund will hold its Seventh Replenishment Conference where at least $18 billion will be needed to fight HIV, TB and malaria and to strengthen health systems. Since its creation, the Global Fund has invested over US$53 billion, saving 44 million lives and reducing the combined death rate from the three diseases by more than half in the countries in which it invests. In 2022, we need a new impetus for global solidarity and leadership.
"Funding from the Global Fund is crucial to the well-being of our communities. The inputs and medicines that enable us to fight HIV/AIDS on a daily basis save lives. In addition to these inputs, we need support to carry out our day-to-day work with women and sex workers. Voix EssentiELLES is an initiative that funds us directly and helps us to go about our activities, therefore funding from the initiative is more than essential for us and our beneficiaries."Pélagie Akoua Kouame, Founder and Director of COVIE in Côte d'Ivoire.
Ultimately, community health is critical to achieving gender equality and ending gender-based violence. To do this, innovative public-private partnerships are more than necessary to give voice, space and tools to organisations that work daily with and for the most vulnerable in our societies, women and girls in all their diversity. We need to change the narrative, change the paradigm and change behaviour, but above all, fight for what matters.
Marseille, 7 April 2022
To commemorate International Women’s Day, Speak Up Africa organized its first ever African LeadHERs Forum. The event took place March 7th and 8th and convened more than 260 participants online & in person in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal including 26 experts and champions through 6 activations. Day one of the Forum focused on the Voix EssentiELLES initiative launched by Speak Up Africa in 2021 and co-funded by the Global Fund and the Fondation CHANEL.Through this initiative, female-led grassroots and community-based organizations have an opportunity to secure a grant of up to US$10,000, or up to XOF 5 million, to the entities or the organization leaders.
"We are thankful for organizations like Speak Up Africa, which support us by providing funding, technical support, and capacity-building opportunities such as the workshop on storytelling.Fatimata Sy, President of the Senegalese Association for the Future of Women and Children (ASAFE) and a beneficiary of the Voix EssentiELLES fund in Senegal
The cost of gender discrimination and inequality has myriad ramifications. High incidences of gender discrimination tend to result in correspondingly higher percentages of human rights violations such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). FGM, a pervasive violation of bodily corporal rights, is estimated by UNICEF to have affected 200 million women across thirty countries.
Financial literacy is another challenge a lot of societies face. Advancing financial literacy reduces the number of the unbanked, which, in turn, helps empower women - by putting them on the pathway to financial independence. Yet financial literacy can help further empower women and mothers, by delaying the age at which girl children are married off. Often, girls are pressured to drop out of school and marry at very young ages, and are deterred from pursuing further education. In Ivory Coast, the Voix EssentiELLEs workshop focused on the power of financial inclusion of women to break the bias. Mariam Djibo, General Manager of Advans Côte d'Ivoire, a microfinance institution, while in Burkina Faso, beneficiaries of the project learned via Harouna Drabo, journalist and fact-checker the power of communication and story-telling. Day one of the Forum concluded with Nadia Mensah Acogny on the art of speaking publicly while emphasizing on the importance of self-condidence: " No one knows how to talk about your issues and your solutions better than you do", she concluded.
"Empowering women is a matter of economic, legal and moral common sense".
said Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, Africa Managing Director of the Commons Project during our high-level online conversation on women-led innovation in Africa
"Achieving sustainable health and gender equality on the continent
on day two of the African LeadHERs Forum. Organized in partnership with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (IFPMA), with whom we launched the Africa Young Innovators Award in 2020 and the Women Innovators Incubator in September 2021. The Incubator aims to address the blatant gaps in female-led innovation and tackle additional hurdles they have to face to help take their business ideas from concept to implementation.
Featured significantly in the forum was the importance of owning one’s narratives, a message also underscored by Speak Up Africa in their work. The second day of the Forum also discussed ways to advance gender mainstreaming, while highlighting diversity.
"Initiatives such as the African LeadHERs Forum help underscore the importance of positive movements,
noted Ysaora Thibus, fencer and Olympic silver medallist of the 2021 team, speaking on the importance of representation and sport in achieving gender equality.
"Most often than not, women are conditioned to imbibe harmful messaging about their place in society, both at work and at home. Women must see themselves represented and empowered in any room they walk into.
In 2020, Ysaora created Essentielle stories to support the narrative around women in sports by providing them with a platform to express themselves and tell their own stories. Alongside Ysaora during the final event of the Forum held under the theme "Sport, leadHERship and influence: the power of representation to break bias”, Diandra Tchouatchang, French basketball player and 2021 team Olympic silver medalist as well and Cassandra Ngbolonga, professional choregrapher, Founder of Beafrika and Instagram sensation. The panel and afternoon activities concluded with the painting of an African LeadHERs fresco, where the three women engraved their messages on the walls. Rajah Sy, Director of Special Olympics Senegal and Astou Ndiaye, WNBA champion also participated in the discussions in front of 30 young girls and women. " It is important we focus on celebrating our differences and see them for what they are: strengths," added Sy.
During the African LeadHERs Forum, Speak Up Africa launched their Gender and Social Inclusion strategy. The plan, with four strategic orientations and eight operational standards set for gender mainstreaming, details a multi-pronged approach to providing solutions to the most critical issues that African populations face when working to create a more equitable world
Globally, gender inequity and lack of parity has proven itself detrimental to advancing women’s rights and equality. The cost can be measured across various metrics, including jobs, opportunities, livelihood, and social perceptions.
"Discrimination needs action, as well as awareness raising and acknowledgment. We have identified six key guiding principles and four main strategic orientations that set the tone for our work in advancing gender mainstreaming.
"We also established a robust implementation framework, with eight minimum guiding standards. Setting clear, realistic targets makes the plan achievable, and spells out the way that each action matters."Yacine Djibo, Founder and Executive Director of Speak Up Africa.
As part of the African LeadHERs Forum and to mark International Women’s Day, Speak Up Africa convenes “Voix essentiELLEs” organizations in Ouagadougou, Abidjan and Dakar, to break the bias and achieve gender equality.
The Essential Voices initiative was launched in 2021 to make a positive impact and amplify women's voice, leadership and decision-making power at different levels. It celebrates the diversity of women and girls and actively involves them in empowerment spaces set up to help combat the negative consequences of gender bias.
Gender bias has powerful implications in women’s careers and daily lives. In the event of work often carried out by women, societally that work is undervalued. Unfortunately, women face similar discrimination outcomes when doing work in typically underrepresented fields. Thus, women face gender discrimination across various areas- including salary, the perception of their commitment to work.
As a strategic communications and advocacy organization, Speak Up Africa is dedicated itself to fostering policy change and increasing awareness for sustainable development - particularly around Malaria, Neglected Tropical Diseases, sanitation and immunization. The organization is also invested in catalyzing leadership - particularly within the female demographic. To mark International Womens’ Day, Speak Up Africa launched its first ever African LeadHERs Forum to celebrate and promote women’s leadership, actions, voices and innovations across the continent.
On its first day, the Forum focused on the Voix EssentiELLEs initiative and its “University of ExcELLEnce”. In-person and online sessions were organized in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal in order to raise the profile and provide platforms to community voices, highlight the power and crucial representation of community voices in the national, regional and global dialogues that impact their health and strengthen the leadership capacities - in communications, financial inclusion and public speaking.
The day began with a session facilitated by Harouna Drabo, a journalist and fact-checker in Burkina Faso, women's rights advocate and recipient of the Speak Up Africa 2021 Leadership Award, who was joined by 23 community-based organisations in person. The theme of the session "Breaking down bias in the media: the power of storytelling and communication" reinforced the importance of women's voices in the media as well as reclaiming the narrative.
" The African LeadHERs Forum is an excellent platform to build the profile of women in the media. Our session and discussions emphasized on the crucial need of a new narrative that will reveal the full potential of women, and above all, shed light on their meaningful to contributions to Africa’s overall development.” commented Harouna Drabo.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the session focused on financial inclusion was facilitated by Mariam Djibo, General Director of Advans Côte d’Ivoire and Dr. Emma Angoua, President of the Global Platform for Women Entrepreneurs in Côte d’Ivoire. “In Côte d’Ivoire, 9 million women actively participate to the country’s economy but only 1 million of them have a bank account. Providing financial services to these women is a crucial step to their financial and overall empowerment.” added Mariam Djibo.
The first day of the Forum ended with a session featuring Nadia Mensah-Acogny, Chief Operating Officer of Acosphere. Joined by more than 20 CBOs and special guests including Diandra Tchatchouang, French Basketball Player and winner of the Bronze medal with Team France during the last olympic grames in Tokyo, Ysaora Thibus, Fencer, three-time olympian and winner of a silver medal with Team France in Tokyo as well and Cassie Ngbolonga, Choregrapher and influencer from the Central African Republic. During the session on the power of speech and public speaking, Nadia Mensah Acogny highlighted: “Taking the floor is taking the power. But power is not given, it’s conquered. Mastering the art of speech enables us to transform the way others look at us, break the bias, rewrite history and write our future.”
As it stands, women are strongly disincentivized to take on the mantle of leadership. Whether culturally or economically, across numerous countries the cultural norms tend to favour women working in the home. Alongside this, young girls are often pressured to marry early, and discouraged from going to school. Thus these cultural attitudes inform the social norms, and contribute to the relatively smaller numbers of girls and women in business, a count which seems to get smaller in correlation to the company position.
These have economic as well as public health ramifications, with a lack of education, knowledge, emancipation and financial independence often leading to poorer health outcomes amongst women and girls - especially in regards to maternal, natal, and sexual health. Furthermore, community-transmissible viruses and other major public health diseases such as malaria, HIV and malaria have been a persistent scourge in certain climates.
"Through Voix EssentiELLEs, part of our mission is to help break this stigma," concludes Yacine Djibo, executive director of Speak Up Africa. "This involves creating a positive movement that allows women to not only see themselves represented in any room they enter - but to participate meaningfully in the decision-making spaces that affect their health."