Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Next Generation Development Worker in Neighboring Ghana!

We would like to introduce Micayla Rivin, an exceptional high schooler from Needham, Massachusetts, USA. Given her experience in Burkina's neighboring country Ghana, Micayla was chosen to introduce Brenda Gael McSweeney at a recent Distinguished Career Award ceremony at Needham High.

Expressing interest in global development from a young age, Micayla traveled to Ghana as a volunteer to work with children at a rural primary school. She kindly shared the following pictorial representation of her work. Congratulations to Micayla!

Micayla Rivin helping a four year old Ghanaian boy make a hand print. Volunteers worked with a kindergarten class in Ntranoa, a small section of Cape Coast, to make a tree of life that consisted of all 
of the children's hand prints.

Micayla Rivin photographed with two young girls from Kumasi hills, Ghana. Ruphina (7) on the left and Jennifer (4) in the middle, are two girls who attend the Ebeneezer school in Kumasi Hills, Ghana. The volunteers are seen dancing and playing games with the children in the background.

Micayla Rivin holds seven year old Ruphina in this picture. In the background is the edge of the Ebeneezer school where volunteers play games with students. The ratio of girls to boys in primary school in Ghana is 99%!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Women Shaping History in Burkina Faso, featured at Boston's City Hall!

We're excited to announce the launch of an exhibit on women shaping history in Burkina Faso at City Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, as a part of a larger "All Things Change" show hosted by Unbound Visual Arts (UVA) and the Mayor's Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events. The component of the exhibit titled "All Things Change: Evolving Roles of Burkinabé Women" follows the progression of roles taken on by women in this West African nation, and the impact that they have had on the development of the country. "Equality Burkina" team member Scholastique Kompaoré features prominently among the six Burkinabé women whose work and achievements are highlighted in the exhibit. The "All Things Change" exhibition, curated by UVA Executive Director John Quatrale, was showcased in an article in the Boston Globe, here

Above, an educational poster describing Burkina's Women of Vision

The exhibit will be on display from late November to December 31, 2013, at City Hall in the Scollay Square Gallery. On December 12, a reception was held for the public and the artists. Brenda Gael McSweeney and Rose O'Connell-Marion represented the Boston University/Equality Burkina team at the reception, enthusiastically sharing the story of female empowerment in Burkina Faso. 

The All Things Change Exhibit has now been invited to show at the Harvard Educational Portal for the first several months of 2014! 

Pioneer of female education in Burkina, Scholastique Kompaoré, at left
with 12th century Princess-Warrior Yennenga at right.

At left, Unbound Visual Arts Executive Director John Quatrale, with UVA Founding Member and Exhibiting Photographer Brenda Gael McSweeney - Léontine Kaboré, a 1st-ever female village chief, figures in Brenda's photo.

Boston's Mayor of 20 years, Tom Menino captured by UVA artist Fran Gardino, is just a pillar 
away from Burkina's village chief Léontine and activist-artist Suzi Ouédraogo.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Women's Empowerment in Burkina Features at Visual Arts Exhibition!

Four photographs depicting a glimpse of the journey of Burkina's women were selected by a jury for an exhibition marking the launch of a partnership between Unbound Visual Arts (UVA) and the Harvard Allston Education Portal. This flagship event celebrated the work of numerous artists from Brighton-Allston and neighboring communities. At the popular Grand Opening Reception, sculpture, paintings, and photographs were shared with the public.

Among these was the Burkina set of photos, that depict the phenomenal workloads of women of all ages in this West African nation. This series of photos also portrays the story of workload lightening technology managed by the women themselves. The end result was time freed up for the women, who could then opt for income-generating activities and encourage their daughters to go to school. The concluding photo captures the Interm Empress of the Mossi Kingdom. The photos were taken over a period of four decades by UVA Council of Advisors Founding Member Brenda Gael McSweeney, based on her work in Burkina Faso alongside Scholastique Kompaoré, National Coordinator of the UNESCO-led Equal Access of Women and Girls to Education Project.

Brenda with Artist/UVA Members Exhibit Co-Curator Ruth Rieffanaugh
alongside the Burkina photo-story (Photo: John Quatrale)
See the full set of photographs of the UVA-Harvard Allston Education Portal exhibition launch here!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another View of Africa: A Photo Essay!

We are so pleased to announce that the recently released e-book Gender Perspectives in Case Studies Across Continents published by the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender features a photo essay from Burkina Faso! This chapter (at page 67), entitled “Another View of Africa: A Photo Essay on Female Education and Empowerment in Burkina Faso”, was produced by Brenda Gael McSweeney and Scholastique Kompaoré, with Cassandra Fox. 

“Another View of Africa” aims to present a hopeful image to contrast with typical media depictions of life in Africa. These images illustrate the progress in rural Burkina Faso, where the implementation of time-saving technology and greater access to education for females led to the empowerment and growing public participation of local women. These programs were the Equal Access of Women and Girls to Education Project and the Multi-Functional Platform initiatives, which recognized how heavy gendered workloads inhibited women’s opportunities. The photos in this essay reveal the changes in communities as these workloads were lifted. This essay is also available in French (“Un autre regard sur l’Afrique at page 72).

Another West Africa chapter of great interest (at page 112) is “God First, Second the Market: A Case Study” prepared by the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund. This case study demonstrates how Liberia’s market women have been pivotal in the rebuilding of the country’s social and economic foundations, and explores several market women’s individual stories. As with “Another View of Africa”, “God First, Second the Market” highlights as well the importance of women’s education and participation in the economy.  (Photo © SMWF)

Gender Perspectives in Case Studies Across Continents also features a foreword from the Director of the UNESCO Division for Gender Equality, Saniye Gülser Corat, who unveils UNESCO’s priority in promoting gender equality through 2021, and emphasizes the importance of these case studies in promoting understanding of different realities and challenges, and providing for the possibility to formulate reality based policies and procedures. We encourage you to explore the Burkina Faso and Liberia essays, as well as the other fascinating case studies the e-book offers. View the entire publication, co-edited by Gloria Bonder and Brenda Gael McSweeney, here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

UNESCO requests permission to use Burkina Faso photos from our collection: Women Figures in African History

We are pleased to inform you that a representative from UNESCO has recently contacted Brenda Gael McSweeney to request the right to use photos from her photographic collection in a specific cultural project entitled Women Figures in African History: An E-learning Tool.  Please see the letter below for more information on this exciting initiative:

"Dear Dr. McSweeney, 
I trust you thrive. I am writing to you, from UNESCO, Paris, to enquire as to the possibility of acquiring the rights to a selection of photographs which appear on the website for usage within a specific cultural project. I don’t think I am mistaken in thinking that the beautiful photographs in the section ‘Women of Vision – Burkina Faso’ -  are copyrighted to you, despite their being part of UNITWIN. The Culture, and Communication and Information Sectors at UNESCO are presently working on a project entitled Women Figures in African History: An E-learning Tool. Comfortably nestled within the cadre of the two global priorities of the organisation, gender and Africa, the project has the following remit:

-          to improve, the General History of Africa at the level of content (hitherto scant on women, alas);
-          to complement phase 2 of the General History of Africa (the elaboration of history curricula and pedagogical materials);
-          to bind ICTs (e-learning tools) and culture (immaterial heritage) in providing civil society (particularly young, African women, at primary and secondary school level) with an accurate understanding of the importance of women in the economic and social development of Africa, thereby, one hopes, empowering them.

The project will consist of 5 interactive, e-learning modules, each of which is to focus on an important woman, or group of women, in African history (& the diaspora), up until the present. Each module will consist of

-          an illustrated comic strip;
-          a pedagogical dossier, with information about the character, the broader region, historical sources (including specific notes on oral sources in African historiography);
-          a small test.

One of the e-modules, whose principal subject is Princess Yennenga, broadens to embrace remarkable women in present-day Burkina Faso. Were you to grant us free permission to use your photographs for this project, they would appear within the pedagogical dossier of the e-module, with a link to the UNITWIN and equality websites. Full accreditation and descriptions would of course be ensured.

I am most grateful for your time, and look forward to hearing from you soon. And bravo for all the work in this area.


(Mr.) Obioma Ofoego
Women Figures in African History: An E-Learning Tool
Knowledge Societies Division
Communication and Information Sector
1 rue Miollis 75732 Paris Cedex 15 France"

Princess Yennenga
UNESCO's request to showcase images of women who have carried out extensive work on behalf of women's empowerment and education in Burkina Faso is great news for the two themes of our blog: Gender and Africa. We look forward to sharing more with you about this forthcoming project in an upcoming post. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

reboisement à Bérégadougou 
par Scholastique Kompaoré

Pour un succès, cela a été vraiment un franc succès à tous les niveaux : des préparatifs, à la réalisation du reboisement. Avant d’en parler, l’historique de l’évènement s’impose.

En 1975, Année Internationale de la Femme. Femmes et Développement, membre du Service Civique International invite le Projet à envoyer une monitrice en France pour un séjour formation auprès d’un certain nombre d’organisations de la place. Une Monitrice de Banfora, Delphine Bélemsigri a été la première à bénéficier de ce placement. En 1978, la Coordonnatrice du projet UNESCO pour la région de Banfora, Mariam Konaté a d’abord participé à un séminaire sous régional organisé à Bohicon au Bénin au cours duquel un reboisement a été réalisé.

Mariam Konaté     
Cela a beaucoup intéressé Mariam qui dans les villages, autour des bâtiments du Projet, s’évertuait à créer ce qu’on appelait alors des bosquets pour disposer de bois de cuisine et d’abris pour les rencontres des femmes. Elle a ensuite séjourné en France et visité des réalisations avec lesquelles elle entretient des collaborations multiples. Elle a ainsi créé Femmes et Développement Bobo. Le reboisement de Bérégadougou après ceux de Tarfila, un autre village du projet Haute Volta/UNESCO voisin, et de Manga, s’inspire de cette expérience auquel ont pris part, deux représentantes de Femmes et Développement France.

Bérégadougou est très vite devenu dans les années soixante dix un village pilote du projet UNESCO grâce à la village forte implication du chef et des notables. Comme son voisin Tarfila, une bonne partie des terres de ce village ont été affectées à la production de la canne et de l’usine de production d sucre. Les femmes doivent donc faire des kilomètres pour tenter de trouver du bois de chauffe, qui se fait de plus en plus rare, ce qui conduit à des disputes avec d’autres villages lorsqu’on franchit les frontières. Certaines femmes recourent même à la paille. 

Sita, une monitrice originaire de ce village, affectée depuis la fin du projet au Ministère de l’Action Sociale et de la Solidarité Nationale n’a cessé  de se battre pour son développement et s’est beaucoup investi à servir d’intermédiaire et de liaison entre tous les participants et à rechercher des appuis pour réussir le reboisement. Membre également de Femmes et Développement Bobo, elle a donc porté le projet de Bérégadougou à cette association. Informée, Femmes et Développement France annonce qu’une dizaine de ses membres viendront de France pour participer au reboisement.

Tout le monde, contacté de vive voix ou par écrit,  se montre intéressé: les autorités coutumières et administratives, plus particulièrement le Ministère de l’Environnement et du Tourisme, les ressortissants de Bérégadougou résidant à Ouagadougou et à Bobo, et singulièrement la SOSUCO, l’usine de production du sucre.

 Scholastique Kompaoré, Auteur de l'article
 Il est decidé que le reboisement se déroulera en 5 jours au cours desquels, les soirées seront consacrées à des causeries/débats animées par des spécialistes sur des thèmes d’intérêt pour les femmes de la région. Les sujets étaient variés et l’audience, surtout féminine importante tous les soirs. On a néanmoins déploré le peu d’intérêt marqué par les hommes pour ces sujets. On a ainsi parlé de :

·      VIH/SIDA et des maladies sexuellement transmissibles ;

·       Lutte contre l’excision et santé sexuelle et reproduction ;

·      Mobilisation des femmes pour la gestion des affaires de la commune ;

·       Droits, devoirs et rôles de la femme dans la société ;

·      Femmes et changements climatiques.

Une troupe théâtrale a présenté une pièce suivie de discussion sur désertification et reboisement.
Le bosquet reboisé.                                                                          
1150 arbres à l’utilité reconnue dans la la région et même dans le pays, ont ainsi été plantés dont:
300 nérés dont les gousses offrent une poudre très appréciée tel quel ou frit comme des galettes par les enfants: les graines transformées en condiment très apprécié en Afrique de l’oest, est une source de revenus très importante pour les femmes;
300 acacias: une décoction de ses feuilles soigne la toux des enfants - les repousses sont rapides et fournissent du bois pour la cuisine;
100 baobabs dont les fruits et les feuilles sont riches en fer: les bouillies et les sauces aident à lutter contre la malnutrition;
100 moringas est presque indispensable dans les sauces de couscous de mil: elles sont utilisées également pour traiter les problèmes de tension artérielle;
200 mélénas
150 caïlcédrats
Ces deux derniers éléments pour le bois de chauffe et de menuiserie.  
Une solidarité agissante.
Les plants ont été offerts par la direction Régionale de l’Environnement et par la SOSUCO comme précédemment annoncé. Des représentants de 5 villages environnants ont participé au reboisement.

De la musique de balafons a rythmé le travail. Le déjeuner, préparé par les femmes a été offert sur place aux participants. Les cotisations des bénéficiaires, de leurs amies de Femmes et Développement de Bobo et de France et la contribution des ressortissants de Bérégadougou résidant hors du village ont financé les activités. 

Leçons tirées de l’expérience. 
A l’évaluation, on a estimé que la participation n’a pas été aussi importante qu’espérée car la période choisie correspondait à un moment où les femmes étaient très occupées dans les champs. Il a donc été décidé de placer le reboisement restant à une date plus appropriée. On a aussi recommandé que les amis ne décident pas à la  place des principaux intéressés de ce qui est bon ou leur est nécessaire.

Please click the Read More below for the English translation of this post. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Women of Vision - Burkina Faso

This is a preview of a publication in progress for
UNESCO's University Twinning (UNITWIN)
Website. The UNITWIN concerns Gender, Culture,
and People-Centered Development. We hope you will
enjoy this glimpse of the contributions of some of the
amazing 'Women of Vision' in Burkina Faso!
Brenda Gael McSweeney & Scholastique Kompaoré

I. Breaking Barriers: Women in Non-Traditional Roles
Princess Yennenga (12th century) was the female warrior considered to be the mother of the Mossi Kingdom. According to legend, as a young teenager in northern Ghana she valiantly fought in battle for her father, leading other courageous female warriors. She later fled this patriarchal society on her stallion. With a hunter named Rialé, she had a son who founded the Mossi Kingdom in the heart of the territory now comprising Burkina Faso.
Princess Guimbi Ouattara (1836-1919) was a key heroine in the history of the city of Bobo-Dioulasso in the western part of present-day Burkina. She defended the city against invaders from the south, and also gave shelter to early explorers. A mausoleum has been erected in her honor.

Naaba Sagha, born 11 May 1947, is the last Interim Mogho Naaba (Emperor) of the Mossi Kingdom. Installed at age eleven, she was hidden away in a neighboring vicinity for her personal safety, and continues to this day to retain many traditional powers. She created a solidarity group for women in her village. See a video clip of our conversation with the Naaba Sagha, in November 2009, here.

Léontine Kaboré was enthroned as the first-ever female village chief in Burkina Faso in the year 2007. Designated by Chief Modeste Yaméogo, she was given the title Napoaka Ziiri of Issouka village. This title means "honor, power, and glory." She had to overcome many obstacles to exercise her new mandate.
Original story for the BBC by Burkina correspondent Peter Kazoni.

Estelle Christianne Ouèdraogo holds the unique job of female mechanic of motorcycles and mobylettes. She began this work in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadogou, then moved westward to the smaller city of Koudougou. Already she has inspired other women to take up this trade. She dreams to one day run her own repair and spare parts shop.
Original story for the BBC by Burkina correspondent Peter Kazoni.

II. Boosting Knowledge: Female Education

Jacqueline Ki-Zerbo was the first African woman Director of the Teacher's Training School for Girls in Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta). Among her numerous achievements, she successfully militated for legislation that would permit girls who left school owing to pregnancy, to subsequently return to continue their studies. Jacqueline was also the first National Coordinator of the UNESCO/UN Development Programme/Government Pilot Project for Equal Access of Women and Girls to Education. She later worked with UNESCO on regional population issues, and with UNIFEM in West and Central Africa. She has been honored with prestigious awards.
Photo credit: ©Stan Freedman-Gurspan. 

Scholastique Kompaoré has spent her life fighting for education and the advancement of the women with whom she has long shared harsh living and working conditions. Appointed to the position of National Coordinator of the UNESCO/UN Development Program/Government Pilot Project for Equal Access of Women to Girls to Education in 1974, Scholastique helped bring about successful implementation of this largely participatory project in Upper Volta. Scholastique also served as Director of a United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program that facilitated the exchange of fieldworkers between village communities and helped introduce new crops and alternative nutritional habits in participating African villages. More recently, Scholastique served as President of the Burkina Division of the March of the World’s Women from 2005-2009. She is seen as an inspiring example by many of the women interviewed for this Women of Vision Project. 

Mariam Konaté is a social activist and one of the first people to write the Jula (Dioula) language and to prepare a functional literacy materials in Jula. She played a crucial role in the Women's Education Project team, stationed in Banfora in western Burkina. Even today, she meets with alumnae of the Women's Project team in Bobo-Dioulasso, where they have formed a women's solidarity group. See a skit by Mariam here.

Bernadette Dao Sanou is a poet and community activist. Based in the Ministry of Basic Education as Director of Educational Innovation, she has written school texts in Jula (Dioula) and French for elementary-level students. Bernadette is a feminist poet: her works include "Sensibilisation sur les stereotypes et prejuges a l'egard des femmes et des petites filles" (2005), prepared for the Marche Mondiale des Femmes - Burkina, and "Quote-part - Poèmes" (June 1992). She also founded the Club Guimbi, a women's collective savings group in her neighborhood. Listen to Bernadette reading a dedication in French here.

Aminata Ouédraogo Bancé is the Coordinator of the International Centre for Girls’ and Women’s Education in Africa (CIEFFA), which has consultative status with UNESCO. The overall objective of her Centre is to promote the education of women and girls with a view to their full participation in eliminating poverty and promoting lasting development. She considers her organization to be a 'child' of the work of Scholastique Kompaoré under the auspices of the UNESCO/UNDP/Government Project for Equal Access of Women and Girls to Education.
III. Setting New Directions: Culture, Science and Social Activism

Maimouna Dembelé was a dynamic traditional minstrel in the western regions of Burkina Faso. Strongly independent and a committed feminist, many of her lyrics paid tribute to the work of the UNESCO Women's Education Project and the importance of functional literacy for women. Here she is pictured with her children, wearing a Voltaic Women's Federation outfit.
Photo courtesy of Mariam Konaté.

Suzanne "Suzi" Ouedraogo is a Ouagadougou-based painter born in 1975, who had to surmount incredible obstacles to practice her profession. She has participated in individual and group exhibitions in Burkina and several European countries, and in 2000 won the Biennale de Dak'art Prize. Several of Suzi's paintings portray the horrors of female genital mutilation and she often depicts humanity's bestiality through images of animals. She also runs an art school for children in Ouagadougou. For more photos of Suzi and her work, visit our Flickr page.

Monique Kabore (1942-2000) was a dynamic leader in the rural areas of southeastern Burkina. She led her community in 'self-help' and income-generating activities, and also promoted women's literacy and empowerment. In recognition of her accomplishments, she was recruited as a Monitrice of the Project for Equal Access of Women and Girls in Education. Photo courtesy of her children.

Odile Germain Nacoulma is a renowned scientist, who additionally was the first female Chancellor of the University of Ouagadougou. A professor of biochemistry, she wrote her doctoral thesis on medicinal plants and traditional medical practices in Burkina, and contributed to national policy in this arena.She was a founding Member of an Association of women heads of enterprise.
Photo: University of Ouagadougou.

Josephine Guissou Ouédraogo is a sociologist who worked for a decade with the Government and then in a private development consultancy firm in Burkina. This field work included an emphasis on women's distinct roles, for example, in the Volta Valleys. She later went on to become the highest-ranking Burkinabé female in the international system: Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa headquartered in Addis Ababa, and earlier was Director of ECA's African Centre for Women. She is currently pursuing work aimed at sustainable human development as Executive Secretary of 'ENDA Tiers Monde,' Dakar.
Photo: ENDA.

All photos by and ©Brenda Gael McSweeney unless otherwise credited.

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