Empowering female youth in Benin through Technical and Transferable Skills

Overview

Batonga aims to harness the economic potential of the most marginalized female youth, and equipping adolescent girls with skills to transform their economic potential into economic power. The mission is to equip girls with the knowledge and skills they need to become agents of change in their communities and in their own lives. Batonga strives to go “beyond the paved road,” and target those girls who are “invisible” or typically left out of traditional education and development initiatives.

Good Practice Approach

Batonga implemented a pilot program called “Mapping, Targeting and Training Benin’s Future Leaders”. The primary goal of this pilot was to identify the most disadvantaged girls (aged 15-24) living in Savalou and Bohicon, Benin and subsequently engage them in social and financial literacy education. This was with a view to increasing their economic opportunities and thereby impacting their livelihoods. The secondary goal was to promote multi-sectoral partnerships, coordination and data-driven approaches to girl-centered programming in Benin and other francophone countries in West Africa.

Batonga’s approach allowed the program to deliver tailored initiatives that meet the needs of disadvantaged girls. This was possible through employing an approach that addressed one of the root causes of development programs’ ineffectiveness; its ability target and reach disadvantaged sections of the community, and the deliberate efforts to have a good understanding of the communities’ demographics through collection and analysis of detailed information.

In partnership with Aflatoun, Batonga developed a new social and financial literacy curriculum for young women and girls in Benin entitled, “Foundational Social and Financial Skills for Benin’s Future Leaders.”

Furthermore, a Building Assets Toolkit for Benin/Francophone West Africa was employed in program execution. The Toolkit is a deck of 100 cards developed by the Population Council, used by the Batonga to determine the specific services, resources and/or skills that girls need to acquire in order to enhance their livelihoods. The Toolkit is unique as it is skills-based and allows youth to be co-designers and implementers of programming.

Specific Activities

The program follows a four-step approach:

  • L: Locate

Recruit and train Girl Roster™ enumerators; Customize Girl Roster™, conduct Girl Roster™ Scan and Community Resource Scan; Use scans to inform recruitment strategy, club location, outreach and segmentation; Adjust curriculum content according to community scan and Building Assets; and Recruit and train mentors, supervisors and local staff.

  • E: Educate and Equip

Deliver social and financial literacy education in community-based Girls; Connect girls to income-generating activities; and Track participant outcomes through rigorous evaluation.

  • A: Adolescent Girls' Learning Center

Establish an adolescent girls learning circle; and Document and share best practices to build an evidence base.

  • P: Program Expansion

Begin scaling-up of program.

Key Results
  • Mapped community assets that can be leveraged by the project, including secondary schools, community and health centers;

  • Recruited 1,629 girls in 15 villages to participate in a total of 60 Girls Clubs; and

  • Established a local, thriving Adolescent Girls Learning Circle that is enjoying community buy-in with strong stakeholder engagement and local programming. The Circle has also leveraged existing development partnerships and has enabled girls to assume leadership positions in their communities.

Lessons Learnt (Success Factors & Challenges)
  • Stakeholder engagement from programme design to program implementation.

It is important to understand and engage the communities and girls you are working with. The pilot reinforced the need for finely tuned approaches that respond to local contexts. Furthermore, it highlighted the need for girls to be included in all stages of the programme, right from program design all the way to implementation.

  • Train mentors in girl/student-centred, competency-based pedagogy and develop culturally appropriate content with a focus on life and employability skills.

Premium must be placed on training mentors in student-centred, competency based processes. The training must be anchored on appropriate curriculum and pedagogical approaches, purposed at empowering girls to succeed in both work and life. This, as was revealed by the program, spurred the girls’ enthusiasm to be co-creators of the curriculum and active participants, rather than passive students. The Girls Clubs’ curriculum can be adapted by the mentors and the girls to fit the girls’ specific needs and contexts. This is critical considering that diverse needs require different solutions.

  • Leverage partnerships, build on existing tools/assets and encourage broad engagement and input from a variety of actors from the start.

Batonga’s diverse network, multidisciplinary team, Board of Directors and group of partners such as Aflatoun and Population Council brought expertise in a number of areas such as innovation, education, social and behavioural change, field research and evaluation, and program implementation management from the private and non-profit sectors. This insight contributed to the implementation of the pilot program.

  • Have a visible and credible champion.

Founded by Angelique Kidjo, Grammy Award-winning West African singer, songwriter, and UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador, Batonga has benefitted from having a highly visible and credible champion. Angelique has attracted partners, supporters, and policymakers to all endeavours and she serves as a role model to Batonga mentors and girls.

 

Which elements/tools are most suitable for replication / scalability?

The Girl Roster tool is an innovative digital tool used by field staff to point out who lives in a given community, who is able to access services, and conversely, who is left behind. This tool has allowed the program to become more cost-effective, reach more girls in need, and attain measurable results.

A social and financial literacy curriculum for young women and girls can be adapted and implemented in different contexts.

The Building Assets Toolkit is toolkit that can be replicated, with a particular purpose of determining the specific services, resources and/or skills that girls need to enhance their livelihoods. The Toolkit is skill based and can serve as an empowerment lever for enrolling youth to be co-designers and implementers of programming.

Having a high profile level champion to advance the cause of targeting disadvantaged girls is another aspect worth considering for replication.

Leverage partnerships, build upon existing tools/assets and encourage broad engagement and input from a variety of actors from the start.

Train mentors in girl/student-centred, competency-based pedagogy and develop culturally appropriate content with a focus on life and employability skills; and

Ensure stakeholder engagement all through the project cycle – right from program design to program implementation.