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SWEDD projectThe Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend SWEDD) regional initiative was launched in 2015 with its conclusion set for 2018. The call for the initiative came from six African presidents to accelerate the empowerment of women as a transitional power in the region. The Sahel region is reeling from a host of issues like climate issues, terrorism, organized crime and much more. Lack of food, clean water and medicines are prevalent concerns and the region has suffered a set of humanitarian crises in response. The region’s crises garnered the attention of the United Nations and the World Bank Group, which initiated the SWEDD project and its phase two continuation.

Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD)

The main objective of the SWEDD project is to increase women and adolescent girls’ empowerment and their access to quality reproductive, child and maternal health services. It also seeks to promote social and behavioral change and reinforcement of advocacy at policy development levels to support these objectives.

Nine countries are currently involved in the SWEDD project, creating an inclusive economy that centers on gender equality issues. These countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

As of 2014, women made up a majority of the population in every country listed in the program. Based on this fact, the future envisioned by policymakers would have to embrace and empower the female population, driving a new paradigm for the Sahel.

SWEDD’s Impact

Through this initiative, the establishment of improved societal, financial and health structures have developed in the region. The benefits of the program are seen in various key development sectors.

  • The completion rate for girls in secondary schools rose from 35.1% to 40.3% between 2015 and 2018.
  • The program led to increased access and use of contraception, with more than 4,302,000 women using more modern methods.
  • A whole 10,154 midwives have gained training in new technologies, increasing the overall growth of the field by 15.2% in the initiative’s first four years of existence.
  • The completion rate for girls in secondary schools rose from 35.1% to 40.3% between 2015 and 2018.
  • The program created 1,640 clubs for husbands and husband-to-be in the region, which sets its aims on the education and participation of men and boys for gender equality.
  • The average income of women in the region has risen.
  • A notable decrease in the number of child marriages has been linked to educational attendance.

Continuation of SWEDD

The impact of the SWEDD project in the Sahel region is substantial. The changes stemming from the initiative, have begun a societal restructuring of communities throughout the Sahel, at a critical moment in African post-colonial history. The overwhelming success of the initiative has been rewarded by continuing well beyond its initial end in 2018 to 2023. Phase two of the program ensures that even more women in the region are empowered.

– Christopher Millard
Photo: Flickr