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Empowering women in Guinea-Bissau

Through awareness raising, the reduction of FGM, campaigning and lobbying, we will help empower women throughout Guinea-Bissau
Through awareness raising, the reduction of FGM, campaigning and lobbying, we will help empower women throughout Guinea-Bissau

Thanks to a generous funding contribution from the Big Lottery Fund, SOS Children is about to launch a far-reaching project to empower women in Guinea-Bissau. Over three years, we will reach more than 25,000 people, starting with 100 women and their children in the Gabu region.

In a country ranked 177th out of 187 countries on the UN gender inequality index, our project will allow women to achieve financial independence, access their rights, and enjoy a better quality of life.

Why is this project needed?

Logo representing the Big Lottery Fund

Women in Gabu suffer as a result of domestic violence, low levels of literacy, and poverty. Despite being illegal since 2011, as many as nine out of ten of women in the region have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) – greater even than the national rate of 50%.

Nearly a quarter of the women we interviewed in preparation for the project said they experienced violence at home, and almost a third reported being raped or severely beaten. With two in five women believing that a husband is justified in beating his wife, real cultural barriers stand in the way to preventing this violence.

Nationally, only 42% of women are able to read and write. With male literacy standing at 69%, this is just one indication of the vast gender disparity affecting the nation. Our own research suggests that the local picture is much worse – 57% of women we sampled had never been to school and two thirds were illiterate.

What will we do?

Preparing for the women's empowerment project in Guinea-Bissau
Colleagues from SOS Children UK and the local team in Guinea-Bissau prepare to launch the project

Our project is ambitious, with the ultimate aim of reaching 25,600 people across Guinea-Bissau, by focusing on four major cities and lobbying the government to ensure that women's rights are included in the national curriculum.

We will work predominantly in three communities in Gabu, in eastern Guinea-Bissau. Here, we will:

  • Reduce the proportion of women who submit their daughters for female genital mutilation (FGM) by half
  • Halve the number of women subjected to domestic violence
  • Ensure a sixfold increase in the number of men able to list at least three women's rights
  • Enable 300 women to become literate
  • Introduce income-generating activities so that 100 of the most vulnerable women can achieve independence and send their children to school
  • Ensure that the Ministry of Education incorporates women's rights into the national curriculum so that more women are aware of their entitlements.

How will we do it?

We will deliver a project that grows in scope over the three years of its duration:

  • Women's empowerment project in Guinea-Bissau
    Women will achieve independence by providing literacy and enabling them to generate their own income
    Community awareness-raising: By running activities throughout the target communities, we will sensitise women to their rights, and encourage women to set up awareness-raising events themselves to spread the word throughout their communities
  • Reducing FGM: We will work with traditional cutters – known as “fanatecas” – not only to cease the practice, but to become advocates of alternative rite-of-passage practices
  • Radio: We will broadcast information, debates and dramas to the whole region via local radio stations
  • Campaigning: We will organise a campaign in four of Guinea-Bissau's major cities to raise awareness about the dangers of FGM and the importance of women's rights
  • Lobbying: We will also lobby the government to advocate for the inclusion of women's rights in the national curriculum
  • Sustaining the change: We will help set up community-based organisations so local women can carry on this vital work for many years into the future.

Thank you Big Lottery!

None of would have been possible without the generous support of the Big Lottery Fund, who have contributed a substantial proportion to the project.

With the help of other donors, this vitally important project will grow and flourish over the coming years. If you would like to help women and girls in Guinea-Bissau lead a better, more independent life, please email .