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.

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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.

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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

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