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"West African singer, songwriter and UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo made up the word “batonga.” At a time when education for girls was not socially acceptable in her native country of Benin, Angelique invented the word as a response to taunts when she was going to school. The boys did not know what the word meant, but to her it was an assertion of the rights of girls to education.

"Later it became the title of a hit song of Angelique’s in which her lyrics address a young African girl and can be roughly translated as, “you are poor but you dance like a princess, and you can do as you please regardless of what anyone tells you.” Now Angelique has given this name to a new US-based non-governmental organization that has submitted its application for non-profit 501(c)(3) registered charitable status." [1]

"The team implementing the work of Batonga is led by a very hands-on Board of Directors. The members of the Board are assisted in their work by The Vox, a New York based consulting company, and Mona Grieser, a development expert who serves as Batonga’s principle technical advisor." [2]

"Batonga implements its mission at a country level by working in partnership with existing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have successful onsite experience in girls’ education. Our work is guided by the input of a Board of Advisors who have extensive experience in this field.

"The principle international partnership is with World Education. Using education as a primary strategy, World Education unleashes the deep instinct, drive and potential of people at the community level through groundbreaking programs that build the skills, talents and confidence they need to take control over their futures.

"Batonga is supported by The Opportunity Fund, a non-profit charitable organization established by John Phillips and Mary Louise Cohen with proceeds from two public interest lawsuits. The Fund supports charitable organizations in the United States and in Africa." [3]


Accessed November 2008: [4]

  • Mary Louise Cohen - Partner, Phillips & Cohen LLP and Director, Opportunity Fund
  • Jean Hebrail - Song writer, arranger and composer
  • Angelique Kidjo - West African singer, songwriter and UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador
  • John Phillips - Partner, Phillips & Cohen LLP and Director, Opportunity Fund

Advisory Board

Accessed November 2008: [5]

  • Ruth Bamela Engo - Cameroon - Former Director of Labour of Cameroon and former UN Senior Economic Affairs Officer, President, African Action on AIDS (AAA)
  • Stephen Lewis - Canada - Former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Chair, Stephen Lewis Foundation
  • Christiana A. M. Thorpe - Sierra Leone - Founding Chair, Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE Sierra Leone Chapter), Chairperson & Chief Electoral Commissioner
  • Desmond Tutu - South Africa - Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1984), Founder, The Desmond Tutu Peace Centre



Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. Vision, Batonga, accessed November 17, 2008.
  2. Team, Batonga, accessed November 17, 2008.
  3. Batonga in Action, Batonga, accessed November 17, 2008.
  4. Directors, Batonga, accessed November 17, 2008.
  5. Advisory Board, Batonga, accessed November 17, 2008.