A new wave of youth-led initiatives for women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive health (SRH), is spreading across the West and Central Africa region. While it has not yet reached the same level as the “me too” movement, it is a constellation of virtual and in-person networks of activists who demand change and need support. In this region, gender-based violence (GBV) is rampant, as evidenced by instances of child marriage, domestic and sexual violence, genital mutilation, trafficking, and exploitation. In 2013, the World Health Organization reported that the rate of intimate partner violence in Sub-Saharan Africa far exceeded the global average of 6.4%. Central Africa reported the highest number of cases, with a rate of 65.6%, followed by West Africa at 41.8%.2 To help address this issue, EngenderHealth sought to amplify the voices of activists and feminist organizations with the aim of ensuring decision makers heard the voices of GBV survivors. These activists and organizations are putting pressure on governments to addresses the root causes and consequences of GBV.
This brief describes how EngenderHealth worked together with young activists and feminist organizations in the region to advance SRHR and how this kind of partnership can deliver more responsive and effective programming. An important lesson learned is that the collective power of influential young women (including bloggers, YouTubers, web influencers, women entrepreneurs, journalists, and police officers) can advance the SRHR agenda broadly as well as GBV prevention and response efforts specifically. The brief also details a list of recommendations for key stakeholders engaged in partnership efforts.