Friday, June 18, 2010

In her words: Interview with Scholastique Kompaoré by Brenda McSweeney

Ouagadougou, November 8th, 2009

"I'm proud of my journey. All that I undertook was aimed at the same objective. This was, in fact, where I succeeded in my studies. I had suffered from the poverty and the lot of women. For instance, women and girls needed to go very far to find water, so sometimes they would sleep at the well and wait for the water to come up. By necessity, I too would go long distances for fire wood for cooking, so I lived the same misery as other women and girls. We would pound and crush the millet and also work in the fields - - plus study! I sold produce in the market, like gombo, also pancakes and donuts. I was the butt of the boy's jokes - it was truly harassment."

"So, I fought to improve the situation of women. An occasion came to express these ideas in 1962 to the President of the Republic, Maurice Yameogo. Very few girls were allowed to go to school, around 6% at the time. So I asked the President to lower the suffering of women and to fight against their fears and inhibitions. In college, I wished to succeed in life so I took my studies seriously; but even before that, in primary school while I was preparing meals I would be doing arithmetic in the fire wood ashes and, as I was pounded millet, would be looking at books. I was the only one in my class who got a scholarship to go to college. With this idea in my head that women suffered so much, I often spoke of this issue."

Scholastique speaking with village women in the 1970s

"After my studies I became a professor in Ouahigouya. I went to the markets to talk with the women who would be working there and in the fields until the very day of a baby's delivery. In 1968, I spoke on these issues at a conference and asked the Préfet what was being done. My husband-to-be, Julian, was working as a livestock assistant, inspecting meat and making lots of friends as well in the markets. He was someone who was reflective and associated with the MLN (Mouvement de la Liberation Nationale). There was a conference on the role of women in development that touched on issues like girls not even being able to study at the primary school level because of household work and then of pregnancies. The husbands didn't care, they wanted to be waited on. They didn't help in the household and had polygamous marriages. I spoke about the plight of women at the conference and read a lot of sociologists on the topic at Centre Voltaic de la Recherche Scientifique. I married before even finishing high school. I taught and had children and received my university 'license' in three years. The fourth year I earned my Master's. I was then recruited in 1969 for the UNESCO Project for equal access of women and girls to education; I carried out the sociological baseline studies in two very different geographic areas: Kongoussi and Pô."

"I was able to put into practice several ideas, especially for tackling the plight of women. This was the perfect environment to show what was possible to accomplish. My path was set out before me and I invested my body and soul in it. An objective of the project was to lighten the workload of the women, and then introduce other possible activities. The UNESCO International Project Team seemed to think they needed to say 'do it this way,' rather than persuading the population (especially the men) through advocacy. Gabriel was in Kongoussi, Mariame Konaté and Gabriel Tamini were in the Banfora zone, and Gérard  Aduabou was sent to Po. In 1974, I became the head (national coordinator) of the Women's Education Project."

"Gabriel pointed out that in Kongoussi, the chiefs run everything. So it was a challenge for me to meet with the women. Through the Federation of Voltaic Women, there were gatherings to exchange ideas. I was proud of advancing the position that city women are not to feel superior to village women - they all need to interact! In 1975, I organized La Nuit de la Femme, a woman's evening to have a chance to share with a broader public the concerns of women in the villages and towns. Women from the three project regions met, especially the village women; the women from Kongoussi acted out a skit around the issues of fetching water and child care. The women from Pô danced and Maimouna, the traditional minstrel from Banfora, sang. The women themselves could draw lessons from the messages in these activities."

"The Project was an amazing forum from which to speak to the country about women and development. There was an important audio-visual component led by Narcisse Kompaoré and Tamini; in one of the villages, there was even a woman called La Radio! Overseas, I overcame any hesitation about speaking of the situation of African women, especially in Canada. We expanded the scope and mission of the project thanks to Brenda McSweeney, and together also brought in other partners like USAID and UNICEF.  There were obstacles, and at the outset I had the unconditional support of my husband. Later, however, this changed - there was a lot of pressure from society, and this was to break up my household. Some people felt that the Project and its reach were important to attract women into the political parties, and this was not my objective. I felt that all political branches had their place in the Project and in the work, in contrast with the RDA (Rassemblement Démocratique Africaine) that saw the Project as a way to recruit women. So in 1978, I was replaced as the head of the project and after a year went over to educational planning. Then I was awarded a scholarship to work on my Masters in Educational Sciences at Laval in Canada for six months; my thesis was on measurement, evaluation, and educational planning."

Scholastique and Aminata Kiello visiting a Multi-Functional Platform program, 
aimed to lighten women's workloads

"Later I was called to join the United Nation's Volunteers that Brenda headed up. I was with UNV from 1989 until 1998. This gave me a chance to accomplish a lot of things for women that I held dear to my heart.  I was able to demonstrate a number of solutions that were possible to help women out. I was also an international advisor and led a grassroots rural exchange program for Africa south of the Sahara. I was based in Harare, Zimbabwe to head up this exchange of community fieldworkers. I particularly contributed to training the team in participatory methods. I brought in Robert Toé to help with this important initiative."

"I published a lot of journal articles on advancing women's employment and debated issues ranging from women and water to women's enterprises and new technologies."

"Relatedly, right down to the present, I am pursuing this same objective: now I'm President of the Marche Mondiale des Femmes - Burkina, and on the Advisory Board for Canadian CUSO/VSO."
Autumn 2005

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Une femme de conviction pour moi

  Benoît Ouédraogo

Les  femmes de conviction ont des caractéristiques communes qui font d’elles des femmes exceptionnelles.

Une femme de conviction est une femme qui s’attaque résolument à un problème de société dont les effets sont inacceptables pour elle.  Pour la résolution de ce problème elle structure  ses idées, propose et défend  une nouvelle façon de voir, de penser, de comprendre et d’entreprendre des actions qui s’attaquent à la cause profonde du  problème,  convaincue qu’elle  parviendra à changer la tendance dominatrice du dit problème dans son environnement.

La femme de conviction est une entrepreneure sociale qui cherche coûte que coûte à transformer radicalement certaines pratiques insoutenables  dans la société.

C’est une femme d’exception, une femme visionnaire qui a implicitement ou explicitement des objectifs stratégiques et tactiques qu’elle se fixe. C’est une femme qui ne recule pas devant les obstacles sociologiques et politiques, les risques qu’elle encoure pour sa façon d’être, de penser et d’agir. Elle est prête à faire face à tous les risques pour ses convictions, ses prises de position et les solutions  qu’elle créées pour résoudre le problème auquel elle s’attaque. Et les risques sont nombreux :

-       Le risque d’être incomprise et prise à partie par d’autres femmes qui ne se sont pas construite une vision stratégique et tactique et ne s’intéressent par conséquent qu’aux intérêts pratiques immédiats.

-       Le risque d’être incomprise, humiliée voir rejetée par un conjoint qui ne tolère pas sous son toit une femme insoumise, qui n’a pas les pieds sur terre et qui se comporte « hors norme sociale ».
-       Le risque de compromettre ou de briser sa carrière administrative et professionnelle parce qu’elle est perçue comme une personne atypique qui dérange, perturbe et donne le mauvais exemple.

Les femmes de conviction  devraient s’offrir au niveau national, régional et international  un cadre d’action concertée, de synergie et de complémentarité pour soutenir leurs initiatives et leur combat.  L’un des défis à relever est comment arriver à cette synergie au niveau national, régional et international ? Comment ajuster les pièces du puzzle ?  J’ai eu l’impression que c’est ce défi que vous chercher à relever. Alors restez des femmes de conviction.

Benoît Ouédraogo
Représentant Ashoka au Burkina Faso

Benoît Ouédraogo, Scholastique Kompaoré and Ali Lankoandé

Click below for the English version!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Place de la femme...?!

Place de la femme pour la paix, 2006, Ouagadougou

Place de la femme, mid-80s, Bobo-Dioulasso

Other tributes to and depictions of women in Ouagadougou and beyond:

Princess Yennenga:


Celebrating Peter "Pierre" Kazoni

Our dear friend and dynamic Equality Burkina team member Peter "Pierre" Kazoni was suddenly called to the beyond on June 7, 2010. He will be dearly missed. As an affectionate tribute to Peter, we are sharing photographs of his radiant smile, and Peter-in-action in Burkina from November 2005 to November 2009; these pictures are available here.

Rest in Peace, dearest Peter. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"White Gold": Cotton Farming in Burkina - Produced by Steve Atlas

Film © Steve Atlas Productions, 2010. 

From renowned filmmaker Steve Atlas, independent producer, comes this short film "White Gold," on the impact of US cotton subsidies on farmers in Burkina Faso. While this film mainly focuses on the negative impact of cotton subsidies in relation to small farmers in West Africa, it also depicts the situation of rural dwellers in Burkina, as well as the workloads of women who labor in the cotton fields. In Burkina, as in much of Africa, women carry out the bulk of food production on top of household tasks - typically, with the help of their daughters - then, assist with cash crops as well.

More recently, women have become principal actors in the nascent organic cotton production, with opportunities for boosting incomes and their stature in the family.

Film director Steve Atlas in action at far right! Photo credit: Accion International

From a Burkina educator:
"I'll make good use of this film. Our people really need to know the effect of subsidies on cotton farming. Some years ago I accompanied one journalist from the New York Times, on a visit to the cotton fields near Bobo. Women were farming and men were watching and making estimates of the profits."
                                             - Marie Noélie Yameogo

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Performance by Mariam Konaté

Education specialist and development leader Mariam Konaté, re-enacting (in French) a skit on literacy in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, in November 2009 - in honor of the dynamic traditional minstrel Maimouna Dembelé. Mariam herself was one of the first people to write the Jula (Dioula) language and to prepare functional literacy materials in Jula.

Traditional minstrel Maimouna Dembelé
Photo©Brenda Gael McSweeney 1975

Here, Mariam is re-enacting a skit created by Maimouna Dembelé (pictured above), a minstrel renowned in the western regions of Burkina Faso. Strongly independent and a committed feminist, many of Maimouna's lyrics paid tribute to the work of the UNESCO/UNDP Women's Education Project and the importance of functional literacy for women.

For Mariam's riveting performance (in French), see below!

Filmed by Brenda Gael McSweeney, edited by Kassia Karr.

Cliquez en bas pour la version francaise:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Interview with Scholastique Kompaoré

Mme. Scholastique Kompaoré in Montreal. 

On 9 June 2009 in Montreal, Scholastique Kompaoré, President of the Marche Mondial des Femmes - Burkina Faso - spoke with Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney of Boston and Brandeis Universities about the struggle against violence against women.

Mme. Kompaoré sketched out the drama of the phenomenon and action underway in Burkina, ranging from street theater to policy formulation. She put an accent on the activities carried out during the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, coordinated among twelve organizations by the Marche Mondiale des Femmes based in Ouagadougou.

For the full interview (in French), see below!

Filming by Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, editing by Kassia Karr.

Cliquez en bas pour la version francaise:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A conversation on women and food security in Niger with Louise Camiré

Louise Camiré, Chargée de projet régional, Direction Afrique, CECI, Montréal (Centre d'étude et de Coopération International) [Regional project manager, Africa Branch, CECI (Centre for International Studies and Cooperation)]. Louise parle des questions de développement convaincant dans le pays ouest-africain du Niger, à la frontière du Burkina Faso. Louise speaks on compelling development issues in the West African country of Niger, bordering on Burkina Faso.

Filmed by Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, edited by Kassia Karr

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Population Council Publication: Girls' Adolescence in Burkina Faso

Selection from Girls' Adolescence in Burkina Faso: A pivot point for social change
By Martha Brady, Lydia Saloucou, and Erica Chong

"Introduction: Experiences in adolescence powerfully affect boys’ and girls’ adult lives, suggesting thatinterventions during the second decade of life have the potential to improve greatly their health andtheir social and economic status. During this time,boys and girls experience biological, social, andpsychological changes related to puberty and often undergomajor transitions in their lives. These may includeinitiation of sexual relations, marriage, childbearing, andincreased household and familial responsibilities. As aresult, adolescents increasingly have been the focus ofpolicy and programmatic efforts during the past decade;initiatives having been directed at improving schoolenrollment and quality, making health services more “youthfriendly,” educating young people about reproductive health, and more recently, addressing theireconomic concern. …

As closer attention is paid to the lives ofadolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, girls are found to beclearly disadvantaged, compared with their male counterparts. Girls lives are frequently confined to rigid domesticroles and responsibilities; they experience restrictedmobility and interaction with the wider community,inadequate schooling, insufficient opportunities to work forpay, early marriages arranged without their consent,early childbearing soon after marriage, and limitedcontrol over their reproductive health and fertility. This characterization of girls’ lives isparticularly true for adolescent girls in Burkina Faso. Nearlythree out of four girls aged 15–19 have not completedfour years of schooling, and 74 percent cannot read(INSD and ORC Macro 2004). Burkinabé girls face restrictions to their movements in the community, to theiraccess to resources such as land, and to theiremployment in the formal sector. Marriage frequently occursearly, and more than one-third of married girls findthemselves in polygamous unions as second or third wives,married to much older men. Once married, girls areexpected to bear children early. Girls in Burkina Fasotypically give birth within the first 20 months of marriage, anda girl who fails to bear children immediately aftermarriage risks rejection by her husband or his family. Thelow status of girls and women makes them especiallyvulnerable in the context of the HIV epidemic, although current national HIV rates remain relatively low. …

Understanding and recognizing girls’ realities is an important first step in planning appropriateand meaningful interventions for them. Laying thisfoundation is especially critical in Burkina Faso, wheregirls’ experiences are remarkably diverse. The lives andcapacities of Burkinabé girls are not only affected by age, ethnicity, schooling status, urban–ruralresidence, and parental residence, but also by their status vis-à-vismarriage. Girls who are unmarried, “promised,” engaged, or married face different constraints, havediffering needs, and merit specific program approaches. This report aims to fill gaps in our knowledge regarding adolescent Burkinabé girls so as betterserve the needs of this most vulnerable population.Section II presents a basic profile of Burkina Faso,providing the social, economic, and cultural context in whichadolescent girls live. Section III examines the existingdata concerning the major dimensions of girls’ lives,including living arrangements, schooling, work, mobility,and marital patterns. Section IV reviews laws andpolicies that affect adolescent girls and summarizes the major programs that have been launched for thispopulation. Section V concludes the report by suggestingresearch gaps, proposing policy initiatives, and providingtools for programmers to assess their own programs.”

UNITWIN Publishers' note: the authors acknowledge among others, Judith Bruce for her intellectual guidance and Michelle Skaer for her research assistance; both Judith and Michelle have also been collaborating with us on initiatives in Burkina!

Cover photo credit: Brenda Gael McSweeney
Text photo, courtesy Population Council

Cliquez en bas pour la version francaise: