Burkina Faso in West Africa is a young democracy. It was not until the middle of the 2010s that the first democratic elections since independence were held in 1960. Poverty is widespread, which, among other things, has serious consequences for girls.
In Burkina Faso it rains rarely and the country is often hit by drought. This has led to just under half the population having access to clean water. The drought also affects the vast majority who make a living from agriculture and livestock. Almost half of Burkina Faso people live below the poverty line. This makes Burkina Faso one of the poorest countries in the world.
The first democratic election created hopes for a positive development for the country. But at the same time, the threat from jihadist groups increases the risk of division in society.
Half of all girls in child marriage
Burkina Faso has signed many international agreements on the rights of children and girls, but much work remains to be done. Half of all girls are married off before the age of 18, and a tenth before the age of 15. Poverty, low education and traditions are some of the reasons why child marriage is so common. In addition, there are girls who are afraid of being exposed to violence or causing the family financial problems if they do not agree to marry.
This is what Plan International does in Burkina Faso
Plan International has been in place in Burkina Faso since 1976 and plays an important role in the country’s work for children’s rights. We have had activities in education, health, protection, water supply and economic self-determination. Going forward, we focus on inclusive and good education, work for young people and sexual and reproductive health, which includes preventing teenage pregnancies.
The plumber who breaks the gender barriers
As the only female plumber in her city, she fights many prejudices. But Bibata’s goal is to become the most prominent entrepreneur in all of Burkina Faso.
– I’m proud of Bibata. She has turned the performances of those who believed that only men can become plumbers upside down, says Rotimy Djossaya, country manager for Plan International in Burkina Faso.
Bibata Zabre is 28 years old and has learned plumbing at a vocational school supported by Plan International. Her story is unique, but life has not always been easy. Bibata was born in Côte d’Ivoire, but after becoming pregnant in grade six with a boy of the same age, she was sent to Kaya in Burkina Faso to live with her grandmother.
Bibata started selling peanuts and mangoes to support herself and she put some of the income on evening classes. It did not take long before she graduated from middle school. When she found out that Plan International had vocational training for young people, she applied immediately. She started in a class of 22 students, 21 of whom were boys and men.
Bibata continued with her evening courses to also finish high school and with great determination she passed both educations. Immediately after graduation, she began working as a plumber, as the only woman in town.
Today, Bibata has two young people employed. Unfortunately, the daily challenges are not only work-related, customers harass her and come up with inappropriate suggestions.
– I usually make them stop by asking them if they would behave in that way if I were a man, says Bibata.
In 2016, the celebration of independence was held in Kaya and it meant a major investment in infrastructure. Bibata got several big jobs, and the business grew and with that ambition.
– I want to be the most prominent female entrepreneur in Burkina Faso, says Bibata.
Participation in society
The student council strengthens co-determination and commitment
We meet every Saturday and the decisions we make at our meetings are implemented in the school. The teachers and parents support us. Now we have a much cleaner school and the children like going there more.
Rene, 11, student council chairman
To give children greater opportunities to participate in and decide in school, Plan International has started student councils at several schools in Bam province. We have trained almost 50 mentors who support the students in their work for a better everyday life at school. 6,346 students who had previously dropped out of school returned after our work for student participation. We also informed the parents about how important it is for the children to go to school.
Sexual and reproductive health
Children and young people are the first to fight against genital mutilation
It was my own decision to be circumcised and I wanted to. I used to think I had to, because I heard that from the girls who were already circumcised. But now I want to fight it.
Dada, a class 5 student in the Sud-Ouest region
In the UN’s fifth global sustainability goals, the countries of the world have agreed to abolish genital mutilation before 2030. Plan International works to influence decision-makers at both local and national level in Burkina Faso. We support youth groups in their local advocacy work and strengthen the social systems that already exist to protect children. We have trained 298 employees who work with child protection in various ways.
Facts about Burkina Faso
Population: 19.8 million
Life expectancy: 60 years
Infant mortality rate: 49 per 1,000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 76.4%
Proportion of women in Parliament: 11%