Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Unbound Visual Arts Harvard Exhibit Inspires "Epic Heroines of Burkina Faso"

UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate Unbound Visual Arts (UVA) recently opened an exhibit at the Harvard Allston Education Portal in Massachusetts. The exhibition is based on the "ancient Greek epic poems, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, which served as source material for some of the earliest themes in artwork." The exhibit will run through 23 December, and features the work of seven UVA artists. More information can be found on the UVA website.

Inspired by this theme, the team at the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network anchored at Boston University's Women's and Gender Studies (WGS) Program took the opportunity to look at the roles of two heroines in the history of Burkina Faso through this 'epic' lens. The following storyboard shares their historic roles defending their territories, and all the while breaking down gender barriers.

The two heroines highlighted in this storyboard are Warrior Princess Yennega and Princess Guimbi Ouattara. Yennaga is known as the "Mother of the West African Nation of Burkina Faso" and for her brave leadership of troops in the 14th and 15th centuries. She figures in the Women of Vision Burkina series earlier on this website, and currently in an exhibition at the Harvard Education Portal.

Princess Guimbi Ouattara defended her city in the West of Burkina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She is revered in the region and is also designated as a Woman of Vision, Burkina Faso.

Both of these women exemplify the UNESCO priority theme of promoting gender equality, and notably disseminating positive images of women's roles and leadership. We hope that you too are inspired by their story,  as well as those conveyed by the artists of the Harvard EPIC exhibit!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Burkina Features at Boston Exhibition!

The Faneuil Branch of the Boston Public Library has been hosting an exhibition on West African Women's Empowerment for the past seven weeks. Featuring photos taken by Brenda Gael McSweeney of the Boston University-based UNESCO/UNITWIN Network, the exhibit opened with a reception held on International Women's Day in March. Over 100 members of the local community, political representatives, university colleagues and more came out to learn about the evolution of roles and rights of women in the West African nation of Burkina Faso from the 1970s onward.

The exhibit was co-sponsored by the Friends of the Faneuil Branch Library, Unbound Visual Arts, and the UNESCO/UNITWIN on Gender, Culture and Development. The exhibit was based on the work and research of Brenda with Scholastique Kompaoré, a pioneer of women's education and empowerment currently residing in Ouagadoudou, Burkina Faso.

More information about the exhibit, as well as a gallery of photos from the opening reception, can be found on Unbound Visual Arts' site, here. The story of the advancement of Burkina's women over four decades can be viewed in storyboard format here.

Boston University's Professor Emeritus John Hutchison took a keen interest in the research, and is currently integrating it into an African Languages website that he hosts.

Photos from the opening reception may be found on Unbound Visual Arts' website, and below!

Photo credit: John Hutchison
(l to r) Rep. Kevin Honan, Councillor Mark Ciommo, Brenda Gael McSweeney,
Former Rep. James "Jimmy" Collins

Photo credit: Eric West
Brenda McSweeney and BU grad Lavanya Madabusi

Photo Credit: Eric West
(l to r) Betsy Buckley, John Quatrale - Executive Director of Unbound Visual Arts, 
Brenda McSweeney, and John Huchison of BU's African Studies Center

Photo credit: Eric West
Majid Bensellam, solar energy and environmental sustainability specialist 
originally from Meknes, Morocco interacting at the gathering

Photo credit: Eric West
Majid Bensellam, and Carena Cremin from Ireland - 
Carena is involved with the Secondary Education for Girls' Advancement (SEGA) 
School in Tanzania, an initiative of Nurturing Minds

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

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

We thank Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC) and Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) for support of the research and activities of this Women of Vision in Burkina Faso initiative.

I. Breaking Barriers: Women in Non-Traditional Roles

Princess Yennenga (around the 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 Saaga, 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 Saaga, 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. Read more about Monique here.  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.

Cliquez en bas pour la version francaise:  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The SEGA Girls of Tanzania: Unbound Visual Arts of UNESCO/UNITWIN at the intersection of art and education

Connecting women in Tanzania and Massachusetts around the theme of female education and empowerment, the photo exhibit “Educating the SEGA Girls of Tanzania” brought a global feel to Women’s History Month in Brighton. In the exhibit, photographer Warren Zelman depicts the students of the SEGA Girls School, a secondary boarding school for vulnerable girls in Tanzania. The striking photographs will be on display at Athan’s Café Art Gallery from March 6 - July 6, 2014.

(l to r) State Representative Kevin Honan, Nusura Gundi of SEGA (Secondary Education for Girls' Advancement),
and UVA Executive Director John Quatrale
To celebrate the opening of this powerful exhibit, Nurturing Minds, Inc. (a cosponsor of the exhibit) brought in Nusura Gundi to share the story of the SEGA Girls School. As the first exchange student from the school, Nusura came from Philadelphia to Boston to speak about her experience. The installation and opening reception were cosponsored by Nurturing Minds and Unbound Visual Arts, Inc. (UVA), a UNESCO/UNITWIN affiliate.

For more information about the exhibit and the SEGA Girls School, as well as pictures from the opening reception and photographs in the series, please see Unbound Visual Arts’ website.

Nusura Gundi at the mic at left - the first exchange student from the SEGA School

Monday, February 3, 2014

Devoir de reconnaissance envers Monique Kaboré

                 par André Zouré, Maire de Garango, ville natale de Monique 
Monique, une femme au cœur d’or que j’ai côtoyée et appréciée depuis ses origines paysannes, très modeste, que rien ne prédestinait à un avenir plein de félicité et pourtant!

Mariée, Dieu merci, à un instituteur, ils ont évolué loin des conforts douillets des quelques rares métropoles des années 60 à 90, Monique a vite compris qu’elle avait une mission humanitaire à accomplir autour d’elle pour transformer les mentalités rétrogrades d’antan, notamment la condition de ses consoeurs des milieux ruraux.

Ainsi donc, Monique, sans doute grâce à la tolérance de son mari, a démarré, dans les années 70, une mission titanique d’encadrement de ses sœurs de Zoaga d’abord, Zabré ensuite. D’associations en groupements, elle a réussi avec ses qualités exceptionnelles de femme battante à braver les préjugés, oh! combien tenaces et négatifs d’une société qui ne concevait pas la femme en dehors du foyer. C’est justement en partant de cette conception anachronique et négativiste qu’elle a pris le contre-pied de ses détracteurs pour baptiser son œuvre en l’appelant «Pag la yiri»*  (la femme c’est le foyer). C’est comme pour dire qu’elle n’était nullement en porte-à-faux avec les traditions, mais que c’est cette notion absolutiste de la femme maintenue dans l’obscurité et l’obscurantisme qu’elle voulait plutôt effacer du comportement des hommes.

Aussi, en développant le rôle social et économique qu’une femme formée et éduquée peut jouer en faveur de l’émancipation de la cellule familiale d’abord, puis de la société entière, Monique, petit à petit, avec ténacité et patience, a acquis la confiance des uns et des autres et a, au fur et à mesure emporter l’adhésion des plus sceptiques; et le rayonnement des résultats obtenus grâce aux divers projets que ses nombreux partenaires ont appuyés, a fait le reste.

 Au fil des ans, Monique s’est révélée un stratège en matière de développement participatif et une visionnaire de son temps, aidée en cela, il est vrai, par un réseau relationnel riche tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur du Burkina Faso, au sein duquel viennent en première ligne, les prêtres de Zabré, Mme «Scho» (Scholastique Kompaoré) comme elle aimait à l’appeler, sans oublier Mme Nignan Marie, qui furent ses meilleures conseillères et guides jusqu’à son dernier souffle.

Aujourd’hui, 10 ans après sa disparition, il est loisible de lui rendre hommage à travers quelques témoignages en guise de devoir de reconnaissance car, faut-il l’occulter? Monique est tombée les armes à la main, oui les armes à la main puisque c’est lors de ses multiples missions à l’étranger que s’est accentué le mal qui la rongeait malicieusement et silencieusement, elle qui n’y accordait pas de l’importance tant elle s’était vouée à sa mission sacerdotale.

C’est donc malgré les efforts de la médecine et le soutien de tant de parents et d’amis que Monique a quitté prématurément ce monde laissant derrière elle ce vaste chantier inachevé et surtout ses nombreux enfants éplorés à qui elle a légué son image de bonne mère exemplaire, qui ne s’est jamais dérobée à ses devoirs maternels malgré le surcroît de travail qui l’absorbait constamment.
Seul le ciel peut être sa récompense.
 * Note des Editeurs : Chez les Mossi, "Pag la yiri" est une idée de base. Par ailleurs, le Projet Unesco intitulé "Egalité d'accès des femmes et des jeunes fille à l'education" était reconnu partout sous l'appelation de "Pag la yiri."

Click below for the ENGLISH version!

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%!