EngenderHealth announces ‘Ensemble’—an initiative to advance the prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence in West Africa

A large group of people stand together for a group photo. Behind them is a slide projected onto a screen.

EngenderHealth launched “Ensemble,” an initiative focused on preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in West Africa, with an event hosted in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on May 16, 2022. Ensemble—which means “together” in French—is a survivor-centered, multisectoral SGBV prevention and response initiative, which will be designed in collaboration with governments, civil society organizations, and other national and regional stakeholders in West Africa.

The co-creation process will include feminist- and youth-led organizations and those run by and representing SGBV survivors.

“We are here to talk about the launch of an initiative – an initiative we are catalyzing, not creating independently,” said Traci L. Baird, EngenderHealth president and CEO, during her welcome remarks. “We are sharing an invitation—an invitation for us to join together, because together we can be more than the sum of our parts. By joining together, we can amplify our successes, learn from each other, and increase our combined impact.”

The launch event brought together representatives from more than 25 local, national, and international institutions and organizations, including the Ministry of Women, Family, and Children of Côte d’Ivoire; the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); the embassies of Canada, Great Britain, and France; international NGOs; and local civil society organizations.

N'Dri Affoué Edoukou speaks into a microphone while seated on stage. Three other women sit to her right.

Guests gained insight into SGBV prevention and response programming and the potential for the new initiative through a panel of experts comprised of Bessi Josiane, director of the National Committee to Combat Violence against Women and Children; Abiba Ouattara, gender-based violence program officer for UNFPA; N’Dri Affoué Edoukou, member of the Association of Women Lawyers of Côte d’Ivoire; and Malamita Ouattara, gender, youth, and social inclusion advisor for EngenderHealth. The panel addressed SGBV prevention strategies, improving the legal response to SGBV, data coordination and management, and the innovative focus of the Ensemble initiative, among other topics.

Panelists emphasized the need for increased coordination, the great benefits of a multi-country approach, and the priority of involving communities.

“It is important to coordinate across those working in [SGBV] prevention and response to facilitate effective actions for survivors’ access to multisectoral services,” said Abiba Ouattara. “A single actor on their own cannot end SGBV, no matter the resources.”

Bessi Josiane speaks into a microphone while seated on a stage.

Josiane stressed the need to ensure that the police are prepared to receive SGBV survivors and respond appropriately. “The reform of the security sector is important because one of the entry points for [SGBV] survivors is the police station, the gendarmerie,” she said.

Malamita Ouattara highlighted how Ensemble “…will work directly with communities: through co-creation, we will engage the meaningful participation of communities, religious leaders, women, and young people.”

Malamita Ouattara speaks into a microphone while seated on stage. Three other women sit to her left.

EngenderHealth is catalyzing Ensemble as part of commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development in Nairobi and the UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum to co-create and implement survivor-centric, multisectoral strategies in at least five countries.

“We know many of you have similar priorities—to address SGBV and promote health and rights,” Baird said to those gathered for the event. “So, we propose that we collaborate, that we link our strategies and our efforts, while we work toward common goals.”