Violence and discrimination against women remains a pervasive challenge in Benin. In fact, a study in 2013 showed that 75% of women in Benin are victims of violence and more than 44% are sexually abused. To tackle this issue, The Hunger Project-Benin works with community partners through the Women’s Empowerment Program to raise awareness and empower local women through education and training. In 2016, these efforts included the establishment of village councils specifically dedicated to preserving children’s rights and preventing violence against women using educational sessions and plays.
Before establishing village councils, The Hunger Project-Benin helped coordinate a series of discussions with community and religious leaders and local officials. Participants listened to presentations and testimonies from one another and brainstormed solutions. A total of 41 participants attended these discussions, and addressed issues like the consequences of gender inequality and the types and impact of violence against women, including child marriage. After the discussions, participants established village councils composed of community notables and local leaders.
In addition to the creation of village councils, the Women’s Empowerment Program hosted seminars in nine priority epicenters. The seminars included capacity building sessions to empower women and girls economically, socially and politically, and informational sessions on the impact of violence against women. In total, the seminars were able to reach over 400 people, including more than 160 women.
As a part of these initiatives, The Hunger Project-Benin began a targeted project called “Her Choice” in 2016, a project with the goal of ending child marriage and female genital mutilation entirely. Project organizers recruited a professional comedian to write and stage a play illustrating the negative impacts of child marriage, titled “Unchained Destiny.” The performance group, Le Baobab, trained 10-12 young girls and boys in each of the three initial epicenters to produce the play and perform it for a large audience of local officials and community members.
The plays were incredibly successful, eliciting emotional reactions and applause from the audience. Many community leaders committed to joining The Hunger Project-Benin in combating child marriage, and encouraged project organizers to bring the production to other epicenters and partner villages. It’s only with the active commitment and participation of community members that we can reduce the incidences of violence against women and gender-related inequalities.