News & Press

Editorial – March 2024

An editorial by Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Vice-President for West and Central Africa, Chairman of the Sahel Alliance Operational Steering Committee

As we mark Women history month, I want to celebrate all girls and women, their resilience, commitment, and leadership. For many years, women have been at the forefront and the pillars of our societies. Yet, they continue to face social and economic challenges, struggling to be recognized. In the face of the multiple challenges and growing conflicts, empowering women is a real game-changer. Evidence shows that each year of additional schooling for young girls reduces child marriage, decreases fertility rate, increases the chance of child survival, and improves economic opportunities and earnings of women in Africa.

This is why the World Bank together with the Sahel Alliance partners are stepping up their commitment to accelerating gender equality in the region. By putting gender at the center of our efforts, we aim to support the Sahel countries in delivering greater results around four priorities: (1) closing the earnings gap, (2) empowering adolescents and women to adopt safe sexual and reproductive health methods, (3) reaching gender parity in basic education, and (4) reducing gender-based violence.

Over the past decade, countries across Western and Central Africa have made considerable progress in promoting gender equality, promoting girls’ education, and enabling women to access social, political, and economic opportunities. More and more girls have access to schooling, and women’s place in the economy and decision-making bodies is growing.

Through the Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD), over 400,000 girls in 9 countries have so far benefited from improved life skills and sexual health knowledge. More than 1 million others have benefited from enhanced education activities and about 140,000 women have benefited from economic empowerment initiatives. This is just one example of a transformative project that is making a difference in providing equal opportunities to women and girls and helping turn countries demographic challenge into a real demographic dividend.

Girls and women’s empowerment and change in fertility dynamics are necessary for the economic transformation of the region. Now is an opportunity for countries and members of the Sahel Alliance to deliver results at scale for an equitable tomorrow.

Photo caption: Svenja Schulze and Ousmane Diagana in March 2024 during their joint mission to West Africa.

During my recent trip to Burkina Faso with the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Svenja Schulze, as chairs of the Sahel Alliance, a delegation visited the Lycée Scientifique National of Ouagadougou. This school shines as a beacon of opportunity for young minds eager for knowledge, and from our various interactions, it was clear that girls and boys had a real thirst for learning, and that knowledge and science have no gender.

While adolescence is a time of great vulnerability for girls, it is also an ideal point to disrupt the poverty cycle and leverage development efforts. Educated and empowered girls and women recognize their inherent worth and will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.

As the African proverb notes, “when you educate a girl, you educate a nation.” This resonates with the values passed on to me and guides my determination to drive change in the region through the education and empowerment of girls and women.

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