Lucrèce Avahouin is the president of Biowa, a Benin-based association dedicated to promoting women’s rights, especially sexual and reproductive health and rights. Recently, Biowa published a collection of testimonies from teenage girls who have experienced violence. In this post, Lucrèce explains the importance of highlighting their voices.

You recently published a report compiling the testimonies of victims of gender-based violence. Why publish this report?

L.A: “Our main goal in publishing this collection is to raise awareness about the degrading acts and comments that perpetuate inequalities between girls and boys. We also aim to shed light on the suffering of girls, even in the most remote villages, and encourage other survivors to break their silence. We wanted to show the real experiences of survivors of gender-based and sexual violence to highlight that these harmful practices continue, especially in isolated areas. This initiative helps break the taboos and stigma associated with violence against women and girls.”

By sharing their experiences with other girls, they help demystify the shame and guilt associated with violence.”

How did you go about gathering these testimonies? How did you achieve a climate of trust and a space where people could speak freely?

L.A: “This activity was part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (in 2023), under the Feminists in Action project. We heard these testimonies during a workshop where girls could share their stories and experiences of violence. The presence of psychologists and a social worker helped create a trusting and calm environment, allowing the girls to open up and feel confident enough to share their experiences.”

Why is it important to publish these testimonies and place the voices of teenage girls at the heart of this collection?

L.A: “Highlighting the testimonies of teenage girls aims to reduce violence against women and girls who are often silenced and to encourage them to be courageous. By sharing their experiences with other girls, they help demystify the shame and guilt associated with violence. We believe that by focusing on teenage girls, we can encourage parents to reflect on their roles, protect their daughters, and take the time to discuss taboo subjects within our community. This will help them provide appropriate answers to their children’s questions.”

Tell us about your local teen clubs. What topics do they cover?

L.A: “We established local clubs for out-of-school teenage girls, focused on awareness, counseling, and peer guidance on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health. These girls act as ambassadors for the association, motivating others to report violence in their communities without fear, with support from community leaders. The topics discussed include sexual violence against girls, child marriage, HIV/AIDS and STI prevention, sexuality, how to refuse forced sexual relations, and gender-based violence.”


L.A: “The educational talk sessions are held within the community, in an identified setting that lets young girls speak out, feel safe, and ask questions without fear. We strive to provide safe spaces for dialogue. The promoters of the social promotion centers have also been instrumental in enabling us to identify the girl survivors of SGBV and gain a real insight into how we can work with them.”


L.A: ” Teenage girls play a unique role. We have identified them with the help of community leaders. They receive training and resources covering various topics and then become educators in their respective communities or extracurricular activities. As ambassadors, their specific role is to encourage their peers to attend our awareness-raising sessions. They also run these outreach activities, because it’s easier to open up and speak their minds among teenage girls. They help teenage girls raise their voices without being afraid of the perpetrators, of stigmas, or labels.”