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African First Ladies as Champions for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Women to Harness Africa’s Demographic Dividend through ‘SWEDD’ Initiative


Addis Ababa, 4 July 2017 - First Ladies of Africa said that the economic growth and sustainable development of Africa is dependent on its youth and in the empowerment of adolescent girls and woman, as it has a direct correlation with poverty alleviation and the ability of Africa to harness its demographic divided. During the two-day session from 3 – 4 July, on the margins of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union and under the auspices of the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), the first ladies further pledged to being Champions of adolescent girls’ and women’s empowerment through greater involvement in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and World Bank supported, Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend initiative (SWEDD).


“Sub-Saharan Africa is the only major region in the world to be lagging behind in the demographic transition” stated the First Lady of Chad who drew on the importance of the OAFLA session as a means to take stock of the development challenges facing the Sahel and Africa as a whole, especially as First Ladies who have a “platform to support the transformation of lives, especially youth, adolescents girls and women in our region who are experiencing high rates of maternal mortality and are in need for education and job creation”.


Most countries in the Sahel region are still unable to translate their economic growth into a prosperous and better quality of life for its people. A key underlying factor for Sahelian countries not translating a high Growth Domestic Product (GDP) rate into the greater prosperity and wellbeing of its population is the slow demographic transition, thus preventing countries from harnessing the benefits of demographic dividend - mainly due to high population growth un-matching its dependency ratio and lack of social services, particularly for adolescent girls and women. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in countries already strained with re-existing challenges such as Niger (7.6), Chad (7.1), Mali (6.9), and Burkina Faso (5.8) is far higher than other countries in the world. As a result, their demographic transition is stalled as is their opportunity for sustainable development.


To reverse this trend, Heads of State and Governments of the Sahel region joined a regional strategic partnership on strengthening adolescent girls’ and women’s empowerment, to accelerate the demographic transition through a UNFPA and World Bank flagship Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) initiative. The SWEDD approach implements interventions aimed at generating women and girls’ empowerment by keeping girls in school, prevention of child marriages, prevention of gender-based violence and female genital mutilation and the promotion of the use of rights-based reproductive health services.

During the session, the First Ladies of countries which are currently included in the SWEDD initiative; Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad, commended the leading role played by UNFPA in mainstreaming the demographic dividend in the national, regional and continental development agenda and urged their fellow First Ladies to adopt the multi-sectoral and multi-national initiative, so as to further expand it within the Sahel and in other Africa sub-regions such as the Lake Chad.

Commending the commitment from the Governments of the Sahel carrying-out the SWEDD initiative and that of the SWEDD First Ladies’ in sharing their experiencing with other countries, UNFPA Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Mabingue Ngom stated that with joint efforts to implement the SWEDD initiative, “we are on the right track to address poverty and to enter into the area of prosperity for all in Africa and beyond”.

The Session also called for action by means of deeper active engagement of other First Ladies through policy advocacy, implementation of “on the ground” projects as well as implementation of the regional Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) campaign, that will be officially launched by the First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, Hon. Mrs. Dominique Ouattara, along with her associate First Ladies of the Sahel Region, later this year in Abidjan.






UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, delivers a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.


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For more information or media inquiries please contact:

Dr. Justin Koffi,  UNFPA SWEDD, Regional Technical Secretariat Coordinator: Tel+ 221 33 859 82 82;


Begay Downes-Thomas, Regional Communication Expert Tel:  +221 78 292 93 44;


Jacob Eben, Communication Consultant, Tel : +221 77 358 66 62, 


Celine Andrée Adotevi, Communications Specialist, + 221 77 552 63 51,