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FEATURE STORYMarch 1, 2023

For women and girls in Benin, multi-faceted gender reforms offer new opportunities

For women and girls in Benin, multi-faceted gender reforms offer new opportunities

Boiled rice process.

Gnona Afangbedji @World Bank


  • A new law expands the definition of gender-based violence (GBV) and increases or institutes punishments to tackle the scourge of GBV.
  • An overhaul of health regulations improves women’s access to reproductive health, including contraception, particularly for youth in youth-friendly facilities.
  • The World Bank is supporting Benin through a multi-faceted program to improve the lives of women and girls.

As the world marks International Women’s Day this year, women and girls in Benin also have much to cheer about.

Last year, medical certificates required for prosecuting gender-based violence cases were made free, so GBV survivors no longer have to pay for officially documenting a GBV crime.

This followed the enactment of a new law, at 2021-end, that significantly expanded the definition of gender-based violence (GBV) and increased or incorporated punishments for GBV crimes.

And, regulations have facilitated women’s access to a wide array of reproductive, child, adolescents and maternal health services, including modern contraception, and expanded the qualified personnel authorized to prescribe it. This broadened access to quality reproductive healthcare and accompanying confidentiality requirements, should also help reduce the use of clandestine services by adolescents and women.

These are significant steps forward in improving the agency of women in Benin. As many as 70% of women suffer from some form of GBV in their lifetime – that’s 4.5 million women in a country of almost 13 million people.

The toll that GBV extracts on a society and an economy are both profound and enormous. It robs girls of the chance of getting an education, as parents keep their female children out of school to protect them from violence outside the home and even in school. Without an education, many girls get pushed into early marriage as they have few opportunities as young women to get a job or become financially independent and the negative effects carry over into the next generation.

The World Bank is supporting the country’s efforts to accelerate efforts to advance gender equality through a multi-sectoral approach aimed at improving women’s empowerment and agency, which is crucial for reducing poverty and for building more productive and inclusive societies.

In Benin, the First and Second Unlocking Human and Productive Potential Development Policy Financing series, which began in early 2021 and closes in September 2023, have achieved significant successes, some of which are:

While societal norms, which invariably disempower girls and women, are also key to effect change, policies matter as they are an important signal of support to women and girls.

On this International Women’s Day, Benin can join the rest of the world to celebrate its own efforts to accelerate equality for Beninese women and girls.

For women and girls in Benin, multi-faceted gender reforms offer new opportunities

A shopkeeper in a small market in Fidjrosse, Cotonou, Benin.

Stéphane Brabant @World Bank


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