Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Six Interviews: Capturing enduring challenges in Burkina and beyond

During his time as the BBC’s Correspondent based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the late Peter "Pierre" Kazoni carried out a series of interviews on issues related to the situation of Burkinabé women and girls. The interviews were on such topics as the importance of breastfeeding, innovative educational initiatives, and combating violence against women and girls. These issues have endured as challenges in Burkina and beyond. Below are the summaries of six stories that Peter captured through his investigative journalism.

1. Peter Kazoni, BBC Correspondent in Ouagadougou, investigates the celebration of World Breastfeeding Week in Burkina Faso, supported by the Burkinabé government and UNICEF. The week was instituted in 1992 by the United Nations, and is meant to encourage mothers to resort to breastfeeding; it is estimated that 99% of mothers in Burkina Faso breastfeed, but only 4% continue after six months. Kazoni profiles mothers who breastfeed their children, speaks to the UNICEF Representative in Burkina Faso who stresses the important health benefits for babies who are breast fed, including the formation of a strong immune system. Recommendations are given for mothers regarding when to breastfeed and when to reassess whether to breastfeed.

2. Kazoni profiles a theater troupe of Burkinabé students and young adults who use skits as an educational tool to address the issue of child sexual abuse and violence, and to draw attention of the authorities in Burkina Faso, including judges and attorneys, of this serious epidemic sweeping the country. The troupe’s members convey that their aim is to totally eradicate the problem from their country. He interviews the Head of the Child Protection Unit of UNICEF in Burkina Faso who tells of the serious nature of the problem of sexual violence against children, especially in the capital city of Ouagadougou. The philosophy behind the theater troupe is to use their talents to sensitize the Burkinabé population about the issue; the troupe has already reached over 3 million people in Burkina Faso, empowering citizens to report incidents of sexual violence against children.

3. Peter looks at a new Burkinabé education policy strategy that promotes young girls’ education. He follows President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso on a visit to one of the primary “satellite” schools recently opened for young girls, running from grades 1 through 3. The educational methods employed in the schools, using local dialects initially (and moving on into French in later years) are designed to teach girls to how to read and write, and prepare them for elementary and secondary education. Kazoni interviews the UNICEF Representative in Burkina Faso who shares the pragmatic reasons why the schools were set-up. He also interviews President Compaoré and the Burkinabé Minister of Elementary and Basic Education who both strongly support the initiative.

4. Kazoni reports on the World March of Women’s grand finale entrance into Ouagadougou, where women marchers presented their petition to Burkinabé lawmakers, highlighting issues facing women in Burkina Faso and around the world. The World March of Women is a global feminist action network that works to combat poverty and violence against women, and holds a relay ‘march’ around the world, stopping off in key countries to show solidarity with the women there. Peter finds out that Burkina Faso was selected as the final stop on the march because it is an African nation where there is a strong women’s movement despite the economic and social realities facing the majority of Burkinabé women.

5. Peter follows the visit of the Slovenian/UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador on her visit to a mining town in northern Burkina Faso, where over 100 teenage girls have been successfully ‘rescued’ from child labor in the mines, and are now gaining educational, health, and livelihood skills through local non-profits supported by UNICEF. Kazoni speaks to several educators, international workers, and policymakers about the importance of reaching girls through educational initiatives in order to prevent and curtail the damage of child labor and combat the larger problem of poverty. The UNICEF and local non-profit work, funded in large part by the Slovenian government, is designed to also teach parents and communities about the detriments of child labor regarding a child’s education and livelihood possibilities.

6. In the final piece, Peter Kazoni reports on a new joint Plan International and UNICEF campaign in Burkina Faso aimed at educating parents and communities about the importance of registering their babies at birth with the Government of Burkina Faso. He interviews the UNICEF Representative for Burkina Faso and the Plan International Representative who both outline the campaign’s methods and goals. The campaign uses the medium of film, and special occasion of a film festival, to offer the Burkinabé population a poignant means to understand the importance of registering their children with the Government.