Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

The Batonga Foundation

What is the name of your solution?

Batonga's Podcasts for Equality: rural girl-led storytelling

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

A digital transformation in rural African communities, building girls' digital literacy skills & putting them in the driver's seat of content creation

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

Rural, off-grid African adolescent girls don’t benefit from digital spaces and resources when their physical and in-person ones are disrupted by major crises. The lasting COVID pandemic has shown that there is no digital plan B for adolescent girls when their physical spaces of learning and networking are closed down for public health reasons. A lack of access and necessary skills mean that spaces and tools don’t get extended online, and the loss of learning, support, and empowerment come at a high cost for adolescent girls at risk of outcomes like early marriage and pregnancy. 

In the 15 rural communities we serve, adolescent girls have become real leaders, developing concrete leadership skills that have positively impacted their lives and their communities. But at the start of the pandemic, we had to pause our in-person adolescent leadership clubs for several months. As we considered how to maintain girls’ social capital, solidarity networks, and leadership opportunities during this time, we faced the concrete consequences of the gender digital divide in rural Africa. We understood that the gender digital divide is just the replication of gender inequality in the physical world in the digital world and we quickly observed that there were large gaps in women's and girls’ digital adoption and access in the communities we serve.  Most adolescent girls and young women didn’t have access to cellphones, let alone an internet connection, for us to keep them engaged, which meant that their work, and their lives, were put on hold briefly.

Adolescent girls in rural West Africa are being completely left out of the digital literacy transformation happening globally. While digital safe spaces and resources for girls do exist, a lack of access and skills is keeping rural and off-grid African girls from using them to express themselves, acquiring new knowledge and skills, and learning from each other. Digital literacy, a skill set that is increasingly important to girls’ futures, remains starkly gender-divided in rural Africa. One 2019 UNICEF study found that in 8 out of 9 African nations surveyed, girls 15-18 years old significantly lagged behind boys in computer and information technology skills. Girls in Benin, and across West Africa are out of school without much chance of returning and without the skills they need to succeed. Before COVID-19, the poorest girls in Benin spent less than 2 years in school on average (UNESCO).  The pandemic hit girls’ educational opportunities particularly hard; projections suggest that 11 million girls who were in school before the pandemic, might not return to school (UNESCO). There remain correspondingly significant gaps in literacy skills as well; 53% of men and only 31% of women over 15 in Benin were able to read in 2018 (World Bank).

Adolescent girls’ inability to build and exercise their leadership skills in digital spaces is impeding the incredible empowerment journeys they are on, individually and collectively. Recent research has shown that digital literacy empowers adolescent girls in low and middle-income countries, enhances their confidence and decision-making abilities, and can offer opportunities to overcome challenges they face in the physical world. Digital access also helps expand young girls' sense of self, increase civic engagement, and awareness of their rights, as well as increase employment opportunities and workforce participation. But most importantly, their lack of digital literacy skills and access to digital spaces keeps the world from hearing their voices, their incredible ideas, solutions, and needs.

What is your solution?

Our solution seeks to put off-grid, rural adolescent girls in the driver's seat of a digital transformation focused on their rights, skills, and empowerment. We want to accompany these girls as they transpose their leadership skills, knowledge needs, solutions, and ideas for social change to digital spaces to benefit themselves and their communities. This solution will build upon the ways that Batonga is already successfully mobilizing girls around their rights and using technology to enrich our programs, will empower adolescent girls to step confidently into new leadership roles, will create engaging, girl-centered, and rights-based content for low literacy learners, and will create new networks of connection, collaboration, and solidarity between girls across Benin and West Africa.

Our solution is based on a simple idea: if rural adolescent girls can be leaders and agents of change in their communities, they can be leaders and agents of change in digital spaces. These spaces will create opportunities for them to learn, exchange, and lead, but also provide the security of connection and solidarity when physical in-person spaces can’t be safely accessed. 

This solution will help to dismantle the barriers to technology and digital spaces for adolescent girls in rural Benin through a three-step approach that fits the girls’ literacy and language needs: 1) equip them with digital skills through tailored trainings and the creation of digital access zones in our two field offices, 2) help them join safe digital spaces through their content creation around the issues and priorities they face, as well as their ideas for change and social impact in their lives and their communities, 3) accompany them in sharing their content and building partnerships within other digital spaces/forums to amplify their voices. 

Our solution was born from the success of our COVID-19 radio program and girls’ own desire to play a bigger role within it. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Batonga launched our very first radio lesson broadcasts in 2020 to keep girls engaged and informed while we determined how to safely continue meeting in person. Recorded by Batonga Mentors, local trained women who have been leading Batonga Clubs for years, these radio lessons explored, in a conversational manner, the topics that Clubs would have been covering in their sessions. Initially imagined as a short-term stop-gap solution, Batonga’s radio broadcasts garnered immediate positive responses across the board from girls, their families, local leaders, and Batonga’s Mentors themselves. Due to its overwhelming success, Batonga’s radio lesson program became a permanent part of our methodology in 2021. We are seeking to leverage what we have learned about using new methods to share critical information with low literacy, rural populations while also engaging girls themselves in the actual content creation. 

Our solution will allow 100 adolescent girls in rural Benin, who are current members of Batonga Benin’s Leaders Network to:

  • be trained on how to safely use Android tablets and how to use digital content creation tools, Bluetooth sharing, and cloud storage, 

  • learn and explore together through access to their own personalized online safe space through a partnership with World Pulse who is building a tailored platform for them, 

  • be trained on how to create audio and visual content that amplifies their voices, priorities, and solutions, and 

  • be accompanied in identifying the best digital spaces to share this content, and in a manner that is safe and positive for all.

Launched as a part of Batonga’s 2021 “Budding Citizens” project on civic engagement, the Batonga Leaders Network is a group of 100 adolescent girls from across the 15 communities in central Benin where Batonga currently operates Girls’ Clubs. These girls applied through their Mentors to join the Leaders Network and were chosen based on their motivation and dedication to improving their communities and advocating for the rights of girls and women. The Leaders Network has thus far worked to promote and share learnings from girl-managed community service projects in their villages and has met with local governors to present what they see as the highest priority issues facing women and girls in their region. These young women, as a part of their participation in their Adolescent Girls’ Leadership Clubs, have already completed a year-long curriculum in citizenship and civic engagement. This solution would allow them to take their work as local leaders and girl advocates to the next level. 

World Pulse, an independent, women-led, global social network for social change, is working in partnership with Batonga to develop a safe online sharing platform for the girls and young women in Batonga’s programs. World Pulse offers girls and women a safe digital refuge where they can unite to courageously tell their stories, share resources, start businesses, run for office, and launch movements. For this Solution, World Pulse will play a role in facilitating the digital literacy skill acquisition of participants, as well as help create a safe digital space in which girls can share the content they create with one another. 

Groups of 5-10 Girl Leaders will spend one year developing their very own digital content, primarily focusing on podcasts, but also short videos, written blogs, or even visual art, on subjects of their choosing related to girls’ rights, leadership, or social-emotional learning. Groups of Girl Leaders will spend the first quarter of the project choosing their topic and outlining how they want to explore it, either in a podcast or other form of digital media. During the project’s second quarter, groups will work with their Mentors to use Android tablets to create the first draft versions of their content. In the third quarter of the project, groups of Girl Leaders will share their content with the rest of the Leaders Network via Bluetooth sharing (and with the technical assistance of their Mentors) and will receive feedback on their work from other Girl Leaders across the country. In the fourth quarter of the project, groups of Girl Leaders will take all of the feedback they received digitally from their peers and will use it to refine their content into final versions. 

For those who chose to create podcasts, 10-20 produced by the Leaders Network will then be shared with the entire Adolescent Girls’ Leadership Club Network. Girls in all Clubs across Benin will have the opportunity to listen to all the podcasts via their Mentors’ tablets and with the help of their Mentors will vote on which 5 podcasts will be broadcast on the national radio. These five finalist groups of Girl Leaders will then re-record their podcast at one of Batonga’s partner radio stations and they will be broadcast across all of Batonga’s partner stations in Benin. All podcasts created by the Leaders Network will remain accessible to all Clubs via the Mentors’ tablets and will also be available to stream online. For those who created other forms of digital content, Batonga’s online World Pulse platform will allow them to share their content widely with their peers in Batonga’s Girls Clubs. 

To ensure that the Batonga Leaders Network members have the skills they need to be successful, Batonga will co-create a series of training sessions with our partners at World Pulse and our colleagues at the Association of Young Bloggers of Benin, an organization committed to the promotion of digital journalism and advocacy in Benin. The first training, led by World Pulse, will build Girl Leaders’ digital literacy skills in using the Android tablets managed by Mentors as well as the video, audio, and visual art editing applications that they will be using to produce their content. The second training, led by the Young Bloggers of Benin, will focus on developing a compelling narrative and conveying educational or advocacy information to listeners, readers, and viewers in an engaging way. The third training, led by Batonga staff, will help Girl Leaders better understand how to receive constructive criticism on their content and how to incorporate feedback from multiple sources while staying true to their voice. 

Each Batonga Mentor will be equipped with an Android tablet capable of storing, recording, and editing audio, videos, graphics, and text content.  Ten of Batonga’s mentors are already equipped with such tablets which we have been using to pilot a video series created as part of our “Budding Citizens” project. At the start of this solution, the tablets for all Mentors would be pre-loaded with recordings of all past radio broadcasts done by Batonga mentors since 2020 to illustrate some of the different possibilities of what girls can create on their own. 

The key deliverables of this Solution will include: 

  • Three trainings for 100 adolescent girls from rural West African communities on digital literacy skills and impactful content creation,

  • At least 10-20 high quality and informative podcasts, in local West African languages and French, created and voiced by adolescent girls on the issues most important to them, and

  • A safe online platform for adolescent girls to share their digital, educational, and advocacy content with one another. 

Batonga will determine the impact of this project through the measurement of changes in: 

  • girls’ perceived level of comfort and skill with digital tools and platforms, 

  • girls’ feeling of connection to and solidarity with her network of peers in the Batonga Leaders’ Network and the Batonga Girls’ Leadership Clubs, and 

  • the way girls describe their roles as leaders and changemakers in their communities.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

The members of Batonga’s Adolescent Girls’ Leadership Clubs and Leaders Network are 14 to 18-year-old girls who live in rural and off-grid village communities across the regions of Bohicon and Savalou in central Benin. The majority of the communities where Batonga works are either completely or partially off the national electric grid, have limited potable water access, and do not have reliable cell phone service. As such, the girls in Batonga’s programs often have significant at-home responsibilities, walking to get water, caring for younger siblings, and helping with household chores, for some, on top of trying to attend school or participating in professional training programs. While each Batonga partner community has a primary school very few have a secondary school within walking distance making continued education sometimes just out of reach for girls.  

Batonga prioritizes reaching the adolescent girls who are least likely to have access to resources and entitlements, such as girls who are out of school, girls who are two or more years behind grade for age in school, girls who have migrated away from their home community and/or family, and girls that are married or mothers before 18. According to the WHO between 18 and 30% of adolescent girls are married before 18 in Benin and 20% of girls have their first child before 18. Batonga uses the Girl Roster, a cell-phone-based data collection application developed by the Population Council, to help us to map our partner communities and understand the socio-demographic context for girls and women there and ensure we don’t leave behind the girls most in need. 

This solution will help build the confidence, public speaking, and digital literacy skills of the Leaders Network by creating the opportunity for them to literally and figuratively make their voices heard. We also anticipate that the collaborative and creative nature of this project will help foster a greater sense of solidarity across the Leaders Network and eventually all the Girls’ Clubs.  By facilitating girls’ self-expression through content creation we will also gain a clearer understanding of girls’ needs and priorities which will help us further improve and adapt our programming. The podcasts that Girl Leaders will produce will be accessible to all of their peers and will hopefully provide not just critical information about girls’ rights but also inspire other girls to step into their power and make their own voices heard. Based on our experience with the Batonga Radio Lesson program, the broadcast of these girl-led podcasts on the Benin national radio will also likely lead to positive changes in the way that parents, community members, and local leaders view and respect adolescent girls as leaders.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Batonga is an African-founded and majority African staffed organization that is committed to working with African women and girls to find solutions that work for them and meet them where they are. 

Batonga was founded in 2006 by fearless gender equality advocate and celebrated Beninese singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo to transform the most vulnerable adolescent girls in Africa into powerful women. Growing up, Angelique Kidjo was one of few girls in Benin to receive an education. She invented the word “Batonga” as a joyfully defiant response to those who told her that girls did not belong in the classroom. Batonga’s staff of over 50 includes only three non-African staff members and only six male staff members. As an organization that serves African women and girls, we understand that we must be guided by and understand the lived experience of African women and girls. Batonga has been working with adolescent girls and young women in rural Benin since 2006 and we are committed to regularly engaging program participants as program co-creators. This solution, in particular, is the result of significant feedback from every level, from Batonga Mentors who recorded our first Radio Lessons, to program participant girls who were moved and motivated by the new radio content, to community members and participant families who expressed their deep appreciation for the lesson content and the window into Batonga’s learning priorities. 

Our Adolescent Girls’ Leadership model, which has been in operation since 2016, supports new generations of girl leaders and changemakers as they grow and discover their own power and claim their new roles within their communities. Girls' Leadership Clubs provide adolescent girls, 14-18 years old, with accessible, private, physically and emotionally safe spaces where they can meet weekly with a group of their peers and a trusted female mentor to build their knowledge and skills as well as strengthen their voice and agency in their communities. Batonga has worked with our long-time technical partner, the Population Council, to intentionally design our recruitment process and program model to ensure that we are reaching and accessible to as many girls as possible, particularly those who have the least access to resources and entitlements. Batonga is a learning organization led by the lived experience of African women and girls, committed to continually engaging them as co-creators in our work. 

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Facilitate meaningful social-emotional learning among underserved young people.

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Cotonou, Benin

Our solution's stage of development:

Prototype

How many people does your solution currently serve?

Batonga’s Adolescent Girls’ Leadership program currently engages 2662 adolescent girls 14-18 years old and 1121 young women 18-30 years old across 15 communities in Central Benin. There are currently 100 adolescent girls in the Batonga Leaders Network from those same 15 communities. Our current Radio Lesson broadcasts reach all 15 communities as well as their neighbors with at least 40,000 potential listeners. In Q2 and Q3 of 2022, we are expanding the reach of our programs to 38 new communities in Benin, and planning to reach 1400 new adolescent girls and 3400 new young women. In 2023 we are launching programs in Senegal intending to reach 2700 new adolescent girls and 4400 new young women by the end of 2024. This solution would initially directly engage the 100 girls currently in the Batonga Leaders Network and would positively impact the 2662 girls currently engaged in our Clubs, as well as the 1400 girls who will become active club members in 2022. Additionally, the 60,000 residents of our 38 new communities in Benin will become potential listeners to our radio broadcasts. After this solution is successfully piloted, we will be able to expand it out to our Senegal programs reaching an additional 2,700 adolescent girls in 2023-24. When the online podcast platform is created, everyone with internet access will have access to the educational products created by participant girls.

Why are you applying to Solve?

As an organization committed to learning, we are particularly interested in the support and advice from experts in the digital space on how best to build access pathways and digital literacy skills with off-grid rural young women. While we know our program participants very well and have strong trust-based relationships with them, we know not to provide a one size fits all approach to digital literacy, but to really learn from others on how to tailor this process for our target group, and enable co-creation throughout the project phases. 

We are also looking forward to being part of a community of solvers who can inspire us to 

to improve and optimize our monitoring, evaluation, and learning system. We could benefit from the strategic advice and coaching that would come as a part of our acceptance into the Solver community on how to better measure and communicate impact. 

We hope that the exposure this solution and our team might receive as a part of the Solver community will help bolster the reach of the podcast content created by the Batonga Girl Leaders. Once they are available to stream online, we hope that girls across Africa and the world can benefit from them. 

Additionally, the financial resources involved with becoming a solver will help us pilot this solution and potentially prepare to scale it to our new geographies. 

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Emily Bove

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Though the international community has recently come to realize the incredible importance of empowering adolescent girls there are still segments of girls that are falling behind when it comes to engagement. Adolescent girls living in isolated, rural areas, off the paved roads, and outside of even the reach of the national electricity grid are some of the most in need of resources and support though they find themselves most often left out of initiatives. We have found that girls in these communities are less likely to have state-issued ID cards, to attend school regularly, and or to hold formal, waged employment.  Because of this, many initiatives can miss these girls and can result in “elite capture,” where those who are already comparatively better off benefit from the program. This fails to foster an underlying change in the way communities value girls and leaves many of the girls, who are most in need, invisible. What makes Batonga’s mission and methodology unique is that they are centered on ensuring that we are going to some of the rural, off-grid communities in Benin where adolescent girls may have some of the fewest opportunities, and collecting the data we need to ensure that none are left behind. 

Though many programs may engage low-income or rural women and girls as program beneficiaries, as passive recipients of resources or knowledge, this Solution engages girls as co-creators and co-conspirators in their own liberation and leadership. The content that will result from this solution will come from the minds and mouths of girls themselves and will dive into the ideas and issues that girls know are most important to them. As we have seen with our Radio Lesson program, content like this, created for women and girls by women and girls and then broadcast for public consumption, is immediately catalytic in these communities. Our Radio Lessons received an overwhelmingly positive response from communities and have even inspired spontaneous community service projects led by program participants and community members not affiliated with Batonga alike. The girls of the village of Tovigomè, after listening to the Radio Lesson on environmental protection and citizenship, took the initiative to organize an awareness campaign on pollution and the importance of good public sanitation and to lead an effort to clean their community spaces. About 30 motorbike taxi drivers in the village of Covèdji began to regularly get together to listen to the Batonga Radio Lessons at the taxi station in the center of town. After listening to the broadcast on environmental protection and citizenship, they also took the initiative to organize a community clean-up of the entire interior and exterior area of their taxi station. They reached out to thank the Batonga Mentors for helping them see the value of their own civic engagement in their community. 

The Mentors, who write and perform the Radio Lessons, have all testified that they have helped them become more confident and well respected in their communities. Batonga Mentor, Bénédicte Zaucyn told us, "The radio programs have really increased our value and our notoriety in the community and the populations respect us and give us a lot more consideration. They look to us as a reference for how to be a good citizen and leader now." By putting adolescent girls themselves in the driver’s seat of this kind of content creation, and opening doors to a variety of other kinds of content creation, we create opportunities for rural African girls to gain this kind of confidence, respect, and notoriety themselves.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Our medium to long term impact goals for this solution are that: 

  1. Impact 1: Girls are less socially isolated, have a supportive peer networks, and feel a greater sense of solidarity with the women and girls in their community, country, and globally.
    1. Adolescent girls will have access to supportive digital and in-person social networks and capital. This solution will give the Batonga Leaders Network an opportunity to build their solidarity and relationships with one another as members work closely together to create and give feedback on their new content. The World Pulse Platform will eventually lead to inter-regional and even international sharing and communication between Batonga Clubs, allowing rural girls to build relationships and friendships they never would have been able to otherwise.
  2. Impact 2: Adolescent Girls’ in rural and off-grid communities will have access to a diverse library of girl-made educational resources for different language and literacy levels.
    1. As a critical part of the “re-engaging learners” aspect of this solution, we hope that this solution, once expanded, can help reach a wide group of both in and out-of-school adolescent girls in West Africa with educational and empowering content that they are moved and engaged by. This will be achieved through the use of both the World Pulse online platform as well as the Batonga Mentors’ tablets which will serve as mobile libraries for all girl-generated content resulting from this Solution.

  3. Impact 3: Adolescent girls are equipped with the digital literacy and leadership skills they need to live successful and dignified lives. 
    1. The series of trainings co-facilitated by Batonga, World Pulse, and the Association of Young Bloggers of Benin will cover a wide range of new skills and ideas for girls. The creation and refining process over the course of the Solution’s implementation will give trainees the hands-on practical experience they require to refine and solidify these new skills. 
  4. Impact 4: Rural and off-grid communities in Benin will support new kinds of leadership roles for girls. 
    1. We have already seen the way that girl and women-led radio broadcasts can positively impact our partner communities’ perception and treatment of women and girls. This Solution will work to expand the already successful work we have already done to change rural community norms around the kinds of acceptable leadership roles for adolescent girls and young women

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Batonga already conducts significant monitoring and evaluation activities throughout the implementation life cycle of our programs, including pre- and post-test quantitative surveys, using Survey CTO, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, and participant observations. For this solution, we plan to conduct a brief pre- and post-test survey as well as a series of small focus group discussions with participant girls. Below are some of the indicators we plan to use to measure the progress and impact of this solution. 

After participation in Solution activities, adolescent girl participants will report: 

  • Increased use of/access to girl-made learning resources (change in reported resource use)

    • Girls report listening to girl-made podcasts either on the radio or on their Mentor’s tablet 

    • Girls report accessing the World Pulse platform

    • World Pulse platform use analytics will also show levels of girls’ resource use 

  • Greater feelings of connection to and solidarity with her network of peers (perception of social capital change) 

    • Girls report that they have more friends and peers that they can turn to for help and advice 

    • Girls report a greater sense of solidarity with their peers across Benin 

  • Having increased skills and confidence with digital tools and platforms (perception of skill change)

    • Girls can successfully manipulate an Android tablet without Mentor support to create digital products 

    • Girls report an increase in their understanding of how digital products like tablets work 

    • Girls can explain basic concepts such as cloud storage or Bluetooth sharing 

  • An improvement in how she feels her community respects and supports her (perception of community support change)

    • Girls report feeling that their community sees them as a leader

    • Girls report feeling that their community respects their thoughts and ideas 

Other key outputs/deliverables of this Solution will include: 

  • Three trainings for 100 adolescent girls from rural West African communities on digital literacy skills and impactful content creation,

  • At least 10-20 high quality and informative podcasts, in local West African languages and French, created and voiced by adolescent girls on the issues most important to them, and

  • A safe online platform for adolescent girls to share their digital, educational, and advocacy content with one another. 

What is your theory of change?

Please see the below image of our Solution's Theory of Change. We would be very happy to work with Solve community experts to continue to refine it. 

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

This solution will rely primarily on the use of Android tablets, Bluetooth file sharing, cloud storage, a suite of digital content creation and editing applications, as well as the World Pulse online social network platform. 

Batonga’s Mentors have been piloting the use of Android tablets since 2021. Tablets are currently used for attendance taking and to give Mentors and their Clubs access to a series of recently created videos about citizenship and civic engagement (created through our “Budding Citizens” project in partnership with the Open Society Foundation for West Africa). This solution will expand the use of tablets to all Mentors and will equip all 100 adolescent girl members of the Batonga Leaders Network with the fundamental skills they need to understand how to use the tablets and applications that they will be using to create and edit content. Because of low cell phone reception and lack of internet access when Mentors and girls share content between tablets in the village we will use Bluetooth sharing. Mentors all visit the Batonga regional offices once per week for their coaching sessions with their supervisors and while there they will connect their tablets to an internet connection in order to up- and download content to/from the World Pulse online social network platform so that it can be accessed offline when they return to their communities. 

Additionally, the technology that most people in our target regions have access to, and that we will also be leveraging is radio technology.  Though cell phones and computers are far from common in our partner communities, nearly every household has a radio and relies on it heavily for news and entertainment. We will be engaging our partner communities through their radios by incorporating the girl-made podcasts into our already popular Batonga Radio Lessons.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Audiovisual Media
  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • Software and Mobile Applications

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit

How many people work on your solution team?

60

How long have you been working on your solution?

2

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

Batonga celebrates diversity and is committed to creating an inclusive environment for our team. Beyond this, we strongly believe that diversity is essential to our operations and quality of work. We believe that the two most important forms of diversity to advance our work are gender and racial diversity.  As an organization that empowers women in Benin, we feel that it is necessary to employ majority women, especially African women. We feel that in order to effectively conduct operations, we must listen to the people on the ground that know the context of the country and the barriers that women face in their respective countries. Women who have grown up in Benin are essential to our staff and governance because they are best able to identify the needs of their community and the needs of the girls within them due to understanding the landscape of Benin. These local women serve as role models to our program’s girls and are therefore crucial in helping girls realize their inherent value and contributing to the success of our programs.

In order to create effective initiatives as well as a movement in Benin, our organization has to engage the communities within which we operate and learn from the girls and women of Benin. No initiative we implement will succeed without on-the-ground leadership, knowledge, and feedback from those in the areas in which we operate. 

As an African-founded and African-led organization, Batonga is proud to state that our staff and governance are majority African women. We are founded by Angelique Kidjo, a three-time Grammy Award-winning artist who grew up in Benin experiencing and witnessing many of the barriers girls still experience there today. Today, Angelique brings her voice to the world stage and has a platform and a legitimacy that is unique, credible, and compelling. Her passion and commitment are at the core of Batonga’s mission and she remains intimately involved in all its work as a Board Member. Angelique along with our 10 other Board members, half of which are women and half are of African descent, bring great experience and unique insight to our programs and are extremely dedicated to advancing Batonga’s programs. 

In addition, the center of gravity of our operations is in Benin.  Moreover, our team is majority women who are intimately familiar with their villages’ context and needs. We are proud to note that of our 60 employees, 95% are Beninoise, 90% are female, and 85% are from rural areas. We pride ourselves on these statistics and as we grow, continue to hire and empower women and those of African descent.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

The Batonga Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and does not make any revenue from our work. The services that Batonga provides through our Adolescent Girls' Leadership Clubs and Young Women's Business Circles are a part of our mission to equip the hardest-to-reach girls and young women with the knowledge and skills they need to be agents of change in their own lives and communities. Batonga addresses the pressing issues faced by adolescent girls and young women most in need on the African continent. We focus on dismantling the norms and barriers holding them back and help them transform their potential into the power to lead healthy, independent, safe, and fulfilling lives. We do this because a world that is healthier, more prosperous, and more peaceful is one where girls and boys, women and men are all equally able to learn, work, live, and make their own decisions. We believe that an investment in adolescent girls is an investment a country's future, and our large network of funders, partners, and donors agree.

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

With Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Angelique Kidjo as our founder, the Population Council as our primary technical partner, Emily Bove as our highly experienced Executive Director, and a dedicated Board of Directors, Batonga has always been able to maintain financial stability and steady growth since its founding over a decade and a half ago. Our funding mechanism has always been and will continue to be based on a combination of institutional grants and personal donations (as will be detailed below). 

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

The Batonga Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in 2006 and has been in excellent financial standing ever since. Batonga is funded by a combination of large grants (from organizations such as the Mastercard Foundation, New Venture Fund of the Gate Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, the Open Society Foundation for West Africa, the Novo Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Foundation for a Just Society, the Global Fund for Women, the US Embassy in Benin, Dining for Women, among many others), and personal donations from large and small donors alike. We recently received an investment of $6 million from the Mastercard Foundation which is allowing us to over double the size of our staff and geographic reach in the coming two years.

Solution Team

 
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