A Super Girl Story: Empowering the Young Women of Cote d’Ivoire

When Grace’s* parents told her that she was old enough to take care of herself, she did not know what do to. As a 17-year old girl living in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, her options were limited. Following the advice of her friends, Grace entered a sexual relationship with an older man – a “sugar daddy” (gourou) – who found her to be easy prey.

Grace’s situation is not uncommon in Cote d’Ivoire. Because of poverty, many young women have sex with older men in exchange for money and gifts. These intergenerational sexual relationships are driving the HIV epidemic in the country, where the HIV prevalence rate for young men ages 15-19 is 0.2%, and double, or 0.4%, for young women of the same age.

To address the pervasiveness of sugar daddies across Cote d’Ivoire, JHU∙CCP created the “Super Girl” campaign as part of the PEPFAR-funded Next Generation of Social and Behavior Change Communication project. The Super Girl campaign seeks to increase the practice of safer sexual behaviors among youth of both sexes and increase discussion of sexual matters between partners. Through a series of television spots on abstinence, faithfulness and partner communication, leaflets and other promotional materials, Super Girl – an empowered, cartoon female figure – encourages young women to take responsibility for their lives and make wise decisions about sexual relationships.

Grace first heard the messages of the Super Girl campaign while attending a meeting led by Chigata, an NGO that works with orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Abidjan. Chigata is one of 12 NGOs that are implementing the Super Girl program at the community level.

At the meeting, Grace learned about the risks of engaging in sexual relations with an older man. She also learned that she didn’t need a sugar daddy to provide for herself and that by taking on small income generating activities, she could earn money and gain confidence.

Grace was inspired!

She publicly declared that she would end her relationship and practice secondary abstinence. With 5,000 F CFA ($10) in start-up funds, Grace began selling liquid soap. To reward Grace and encourage her efforts, Chigata persuaded a cell phone operator to advance the young girl 150,000 F CFA ($300) so that she could obtain a franchise to manage one of the mobile telephone booths that are seen on the streets of Abidjan.

And Chigata named Grace their “Super Girl”.

* Name has been changed.

Watch the Super Girl television spots:

Watch a report on the mobile phone kiosks of Abidjan.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter