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UNFPA welcomes the World Bank’s approval of an additional $376 million to advance women’s and girls' empowerment in Africa

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The World Bank's Board of Directors has authorized the execution of the second phase of the Sahel Women's Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project. This ambitious and innovative project works to accelerate the demographic transition and reduce gender inequalities. The World Bank has granted an additional amount of $376 million, bringing its overall investment to $680 million to strengthen human capital and impact African countries development.

"The World Bank believes that there can be no sustainable economic growth without women empowerment, and considers the full participation and inclusion of girls and women as a key factor in the continent progress," insists Deborah Wetzel, Director of Regional Integration in Africa at the World Bank.

Phase 2 of the project will intensify activities in Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, and Mauritania extend them to two new countries: Cameroon ($75 million) and Guinea ($60 million).

 

Welcoming the authorization of SWEDD 2, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, declared, it was “an investment in women and girls is an investment in a more equitable future.”

 

Recalling the importance of investing in human capital, Mabingue Ngom, UNFPA Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said, “The authorization of SWEDD II is a game-changer in our efforts to empower women and improve on the lives of girls and women in the Sahel. It will certainly accelerate a demographic transition, and fast-track transformative shift in the region. Our gratitude to The World Bank for the support to scale-up this project as we strive towards more successful interventions.”

In addition to the strategic axes and interventions of Phase 1, the integration of laws and regulatory, religious and customary standards, and the prevention and better response to violence against women will be in the foreground. The investments will also facilitate access to essential medicines, including the delivery of contraceptives at the community level, and strengthen the capacities of midwives to work with women and adolescent girls in the rural areas.

One of the important components of SWEDD 2 focuses on strengthening the legal frameworks that support women's rights to health and education. The activities funded by the project were defined at national and regional level following consultations between parliamentarians, judges and lawyers, in the countries covered by the SWEDD project and beyond. They relate to strengthening legislation and the capacity of the judiciary, as well as promoting the dissemination and application of existing legislation in communities where harmful practices are widespread.

In addition, the project has been enriched by the African Union (AU) being a new strategic partner. Bringing together 55 states, the AU is the continent's largest intergovernmental organization and, as such, it constitutes a leading forum for social and economic transformations. This partnership will consolidate the AU's capacity to serve as a framework for the codification of political and legal reforms, to facilitate peer-to-peer exchange and to communicate progress made in areas related to the promotion of women's empowerment in the continent.

The SWEDD project is in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063, as well as national strategies of the various beneficiary countries. It also contributes to the World Bank Group's regional integration and cooperation assistance strategy, which emphasizes human capital development and focuses in particular on promoting the economic empowerment of women.

About the SWEDD project and the progress of Phase 1

 

The SWEDD regional initiative is a concerted response between the United Nations and the World Bank to the call for action launched in 2013 by Heads of State on demographic challenges in the Sahel. Phase 1 of the project was implemented between 2015 and 2019 (SWEDD 1) in seven countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), and later Benin. With The World Bank provides the financial support, while the technical support and overall coordination is from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as well as from the West African Health Organization (WAHO).

As an agency in charge of population and reproductive health issues, the choice of UNFPA is all the more justified as the axes of intervention of SWEDD are in line with the mandate and approach of the agency. UNFPA through its West and Central Africa Regional Office (WCARO), which provides the Regional Technical Secretariat (STR), has established implementation mechanisms thanks to a dedicated team, supported by a pool of international and national consultants and SWEDD focal points in UNFPA Country Offices. Coordination by UNFPA was supported by specialized partners and the conduct of the regional and promote social and behavior change communicate campaign.

In four years, SWEDD has contributed to a positive development in the areas of psychosocial skills and knowledge of young girls in sexual and reproductive health, to keep them in school and to widen their economic prospects. Key indicators focusing on girls' education, adolescent fertility, family planning, mother and child health, child dependency ratio and raising the age of marriage have seen significant improvements.

 

 

Contacts:

Céline Adotevi, SWEDD Communications Specialist:  adotevi@unfpa.org

Jacob Enoh Eben, UNFPA Regional Communications Advisor: eben@unfpa.org