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Day 273: Grammy Award Winner Angelique Kidjo Gives Back to Africa

I am honoured to be doing a guest post today from a remarkable women that is changing the part of the world she grew up in. It is the story of growing up in Africa as a young girl and the challenges faced  because you are born a girl. Angelique Kidjo Gives Back and shares her story.

My guest is Angelique Kidjo.

“Grammy Award–winning Beninoise singer-songwriter and activist, noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. Time Magazine has called her “Africa’s premier diva”.[The BBC has included Angelique in its list of the continent’s 50 most iconic figures and The Guardian has listed her as one of their Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. (Quoted directly from her Wikipedia Bio.)

This story is not about Angelique’s celebrity but it is about her life on Africa  and how she is changing the world one girl at a time through education.

Day 273: Give 273


When I was a young girl in Benin, my parents explained an important truth – a truth that seen displayed time and again on my travels as an artist and, more recently, as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador: there is only one humanity, and we are all linked. The poverty that affects the developing world likewise affects those outside of its direct reaches.

The wisdom of my mother and father goes beyond this, though. They sent me to school at a time when most parents did not allow their daughters to go. We faced our fair share of resistance. Boys at school would harass us and make us miserable. They would do anything to make us quit. Even inside my family, aunts and uncles tried many times to convince my father to stop sending me to school because I should be married. But my parents always stood their ground.

It was around this time that I in conjunction with two other girls of different backgrounds created the word “Batonga”.  Instead of fighting the resistance coming from our male peers we would hurl this word at them.  To us Batonga meant, “Get off my back! I will do what I want, I will be what I want!” This is why my organization carries this title.  As a Batonga girl you have the chance to empower yourself through education and tell all that rise against you that you have the power to do as you please in this world.

I created The Batonga Foundation to support secondary education for girls – Batonga is a new and small charity but we are now supporting over 1200 girls in 5 African nations — Benin, Mali, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Sierra Leone in secondary or post-secondary education.   Someday those 1200 girls will most likely be mothers – mothers who will be sure that their children – girls and boys are educated just as my parents fought for my own education. And these girls will also be ambassadors to their communities and by their success will encourage other mothers and fathers to find ways to educate their children.   A cycle is being created and it starts right now, right here with my Batonga girls.

Without access to secondary and higher education schooling, those enrolled in primary school not only lack incentive to stay in school, but also lack opportunities beyond it. For girls in particular, this problem compounds others: secondary education, for instance, is the single biggest factor in reducing the threat of HIV and AIDS for girls. For example, one recent survey (in Swaziland) showed that two-thirds of teenage girls in school are free of HIV, whereas two-thirds of girls not in school are HIV-positive. Likewise, every year of girls’ education can reduce infant mortality by 5 to 10 percent.  Educated mothers are more likely to sure that their children are vaccinated. They are better able to manage household budgets and provide more nutritious food for their families.

When our girls correspond with us, the joy in their letters lets us know that what we are doing is working! Statistical evidence takes a back seat to a girl like Isatu Conteh, a student in our program in Sierra Leone, who tells us

“I want to thank the Batonga Foundation for the great things they did for me since I started attending FAWE School for Girls in Waterloo. The Scholarship did great things in my school affairs: – such as the provision of text books like :-Mathematic, Social Studies, English Language, Integrated Science, Exercise Book and they even paid my three terms school fees for me, the scholarship did everything for me concerning my school. And I was so appreciate for what they have done for me, Batonga has changed my life since I entre in FAWE school. I thank you very much may God bless you and protect you. Once more thanks.”

Or Emma Kamara who writes,

“I was about stop going to school due to the level of poverty in my family, but the scholarship have me hope for my future as I can now gain education.”

These girls are proof positive that we are making a difference and that they are finding their voices and living the Batonga motto everyday.

I was lucky that my parents understood the power of knowledge and importance of education. By allocating funds toward secondary education and making positive impacts in the lives of girls and their families, the enthusiasm for education will drive its own engine.

Angelique Kidjo Batonga is giving girls a secondary school and higher education so they can take the lead in changing Africa.


What people are saying about 365give

“I wanted to express my gratitude for the teaching you provided today. Your message was delivered eloquently, compassionately, and without judgment. The kids were engaged, and now have knowledge with which they can change the world. We all appreciated how you took the time to help us learn to build positive mindsets and practice happiness.”
Shelley Gardner, Grade 6 Ridgeview Elementary (West Vancouver)
“Actions really do speak louder than words, which is why I believe the 365give Challenge has resonated throughout my community. Every give we do is so important to us and leaves us happier and appreciating our lives a little bit more than before.”
Mahina Niyozova (Tajikistan)
“After watching the 365give TEDx Talk, I was inspired to join and begin a daily giving program in India. Today, along with 12 other volunteer women, we provide 100 meals to local underprivileged children in Bangalore for school every day.”
Deepika Ahuja, Mom (Bangalore, India)
“My life has greater meaning now.”
Renate Jorge, @BeKindBrazil and 365give Member, Family Program (Brazil)
“I just wanted to share that 365give really helped me. I am a better person now, thank you.”
MayLee, 365give Member, Individual Program
“This 365give Challenge has really injected excitement and extra enthusiasm in each work day as I think about what we can do. It has motivated me and the students.”
Cristina Peters, School Counselor (New York City, USA)
“I have seen a huge shift in energy throughout my classroom since doing the 365give Challenge. The Challenge has empowered my students to make a positive difference in the school’s community and beyond.”
Cella Adriana, Special Needs Educator /The Holliswood School (New York City, USA)
“The 365give Challenge helps students understand their impact on others. It opens avenues for introducing and discussing global and local issues in classrooms. It is powerful to watch students of all ages think about how they can make a change in another person’s life with one small act.”
Jessica Hall, Primary Teacher, French Immersion at École Pauline Johnson (West Vancouver, Canada)