Sahel countries face the compounding impacts of large youth populations, extreme poverty, food insecurity, natural disasters exacerbated by climate crisis, displacement and conflict, including transnational terrorism.1 To address escalating transboundary threats, the G5 Sahel was formed in 2014 as a coordinated security framework among the five Sahel countries. In 2017, the 12-member Sahel Alliance came together as a group of donors to support the G5 Sahel’s agenda. For the well-being of their populations, the Sahel countries, supported by the Sahel Alliance and the wider international community, must adopt responses to the region’s complex range of challenges that go beyond traditional security approaches. This includes recognizing that gender equality, women’s empowerment and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are critical components in conflict prevention and rebuilding societies.
To be effective and sustainable, both the G5 Sahel and Sahel Alliance must take rights-based and gender-sensitive approaches to underpin their security and development agendas. These efforts should, at minimum, ensure that: 1) G5 Sahel security operations prioritize the protection and empowerment of women, girls and young people; 2) strategic priorities of the G5 Sahel and the Sahel Alliance include SRHR, with particular attention to the needs and rights of women, girls and young people; and 3) sufficient funding is allocated to fund SRHR as a priority.
Local and international civil society organizations (CSOs) should take the opportunity these dual initiatives provide to advocate for investments in SRHR to increase resilience and fight poverty and instability in the region.