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World Bank Grants $11.6 Million for Sahel Women

On April 23, 2015, The World Bank Group granted the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project (SWEDD) $11.6 million, and an additional $23.2 million credit, to include Burkina Faso into the program.

Due to the political instability in Burkina Faso late October 2014, negotiations to add Burkina Faso to the SWEDD project were delayed. Currently, Burkina Faso is the sixth Sahelian country to be added to the project; others include: Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The Sahel region would gain a great economic boost from a demographic dividend through a rapid decline in fertility and infant mortality rates; the addition of Burkina Faso expands the effectiveness of SWEDD.

The program aims to increase access to reproductive, child and maternal health services for women and adolescent girls in participating countries in the Sahel region of Africa. SWEDD also intends to educate women on gender and their own reproductive health.

In Burkina Faso, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is 5.8. With only 15 percent of married women aged 15-49 using contraception the maternal mortality ratio, per 100,000 live births, is 300. Moreover, the under-5 mortality rate, per 1,000 live births, is 108.

The high fertility rate, which worsens population pressure, coupled with poor health services are preventing Burkina Faso from garnering the benefits from a demographic dividend.

Burkina Faso’s involvement in the Sahel Women’s Empowerment promises great outcomes. The issue of child marriage in Burkina Faso is linked to poverty, the tradition of gender inequality and lack of education.

Involving women in the working age population will accelerate Burkina Faso’s demographic dividend because comparably the number of dependents would be lower.

SWEDD will empower women in Burkina Faso through promoting their academic education, and involving more women in life-skills programs, making women more independent.

This will consequently decrease the child marriage rates, which are at an 86 percent prevalence in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, and 76 percent in the East region.

World Bank Country Manager for Burkina Faso commented on the addition of Burkina Faso to the Sahel Women’s Empowerment Project saying: “Educating adolescent girls and improving health services for women will certainly reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity in Burkina Faso.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: The World Bank 1, The World Bank 2, Sahel Women Empowerment Outline, Burkina Faso Child Marriage
Photo: Wikimedia