WASHINGTON, April 23, 2015 – The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$23.2 credit and US$11.6 grant for women and adolescent girls’ empowerment to expand their access to reproductive, child, and maternal health services in Burkina Faso. It will also help promote regional knowledge and data on proven gender development programs.
The additional financing will build on the original Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Regional Project and add Burkina Faso to be the sixth country supported by the project. It first included five countries in Africa’s Sahel region and the Economic Community of Western Africa States (ECOWAS) and now with the sixth the total financing for the project is US$205 million.
“Adding Burkina Faso will enhance the regional impact,” says Mercy Tembon, the World Bank Country Manager for Burkina Faso. “Educating adolescent girls and improving health services for women will certainly reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity in Burkina Faso”.
The six Sahelian countries supported by this project have the highest fertility rates in the sub-region. Given that most the people in these countries are living in cross-border areas, the project will generate spill-over effects between countries as well as beyond these borders.
The Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project will work across the sub-region to improve the availability and affordability of reproductive health services, strengthen specialized training centers for rural-based midwives, improve nursing services, and pilot and share knowledge on adolescent girls’ initiatives.
High fertility, rapid population growth and poor health services are hindering countries in the Sahel and preventing them from taking advantage of a demographic dividend which could bring greater prosperity to their families and their countries. Reaping the benefits of this demographic dividend is far from automatic and requires urgent action, so to achieve a rapid fertility transition and trigger a demographic dividend. A multisectoral approach on women and girls’ empowerment and access to health services is needed, as proposed in the project.
“These challenges addressed more effectively and efficiently at the regional level through collective action and cooperation. Today’s project will work across borders to help overcome barriers by empowering women and girls, and giving them the tools necessary to shape their own future,” said Christophe Lemière, Task Team Leader for the project.
Empowering women and girls means helping them to continue their education, improving their knowledge of Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health and Nutrition, and increasing the number of young women who participate in life-skills programs. Combined, these interventions can reduce fertility rates and child marriage, all factors that contribute to preventing women from prospering and formally contributing to economies, while also increasing demand for and access to family planning services.
Financed by IDA, the WBG’s fund for the poorest countries*, the new program will be closely coordinated with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and other development partners, and will strengthen the West African Health Organization (WAHO), the health arm of ECOWAS, a regional group of 15 West African countries promoting economic integration across the region.
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 77 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.8 billion people, the majority of whom live on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 112 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $18 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent going to Africa.