Article written

  • on 11.09.2015
  • at 03:31 PM
  • by Naomi Cohen

The long road to freedom for women in Burkina Faso 0

Burkina Faso has a numerous laws, including a constitution, family and penal codes, and is party to international treaties, which protect the rights of women and girls. But enforcement of the law is a completely different story. A local organisation and its German partner are working hard to end FGM and other forms of violence against Burkinabe women and girls.

A committee from Terre Des Femmes – Human Rights for Women e.V. (TDF) – visited the Association Bangr Nooma (ABN), the organization’s partner institution in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, between 5 and 12 June 2015. The representatives included Renate Staudenmeyer (TDF Department for International Cooperation) and Irma Bergknecht (TDF Board of Directors). The visit was undertaken in connection with the grand opening of the new Consultation Centre for Women and Girls – CAECF (French: Centre d’Accueil, d’Ecoute et de Conseils pour les Femmes et les Filles), a project which was made possible through grants from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany – BMZ (German: Bundesministerium für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung), internal resources provided by Terre Des Femmes, and the active involvement of TDF’s partner organization, the Association Bangr Nooma. Conceptualised in December 2014, the project has created a new space for women and girls, who have been affected by violence to find protection, consultation, and guidance.

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso has one of the highest national poverty rates per capita in the world. In 2014, The Human Development Report ranked Burkina Faso 181st out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index based on the measures of long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and decent standard of living, a position it has continually held in recent years (UNDP: Human Development Report 2014). Currently, 44.6% of the population lives under conditions of extreme poverty, classified as less than $1.25 USD per day. Such difficult socio-economic conditions foster strong inequalities between men and women, leading to types of violence against women that are both more distinct and more multifaceted than in other contexts. Manifesting not just as physical or sexual violence (strikes, rape, abuse, sexual exploitation, etc.), violence against women can also take the form of psychological or moral violence (insults, threats, defamation, etc.), economic violence (denial of access to monetary resources, income, land, etc.), and social violence (female genital mutilation, early and/or forced-marriage, repudiation for reasons including accusations of witchcraft, compulsory levirate marriages, etc.), amongst others. Furthermore, such acts are compounded by the local cultural practices and norms, which are contextually characterised by strong traditions, customs, and patriarchial interpretations of religion.

In a 2010 study by the African Child Policy Forum, approximately 600 young women (aged between 18-24 years old) from capital cities across the world were interviewed about violence they had experienced throughout their lives, including women from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The results of the study showed that: around 88% of women surveyed stated that they had suffered physical abuse where an object (such as a stick, broom, or belt) was used; 91% experienced blows and/or beatings; 51% have been victims of serious impact injuries; and 27% reported having been choked and/or having suffered burns. Furthermore, 81% of all respondents had experienced sexual harassment; 52% had been molested; and 40% of women reported having experienced force and/or coercion in sexual intercourse[1] .

TDF’s partner organization ABN therefore works towards an overall societal shift by employing awareness-raising methods in which traditions harmful to women can be transformed and new social norms be created.

A Strong Collaboration

TDF has supported the Association Bangr Nooma’s fight to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in Burkina Faso since 1998[2] . Though outlawed in 1996, FGM is still widespread, with UNICEF reporting that as of 2013, as many as 76% of the country’s women and girls have undergone some form of traditional cutting.

FGM harms women’s physical and mental health throughout their lives. The cutting is mostly done under unhygienic conditions, consequently leading women to suffer from not only the traumatizing effects of the procedure itself, but also from subsequent complications and side effects, such as tumours, adhesions, and fistulas, among others. Rakieta Poyga, director of ABN, recalled that, “I myself felt the devastating consequences that the mutilation can have on us women during the unbelievably painful birth of my daughter in 1998…” adding that, “…This was the trigger that led me to establish the Association Bangr Nooma. The women of my generation, I myself born in 1960, have almost all been cut. Only now, amongst the younger women, are the signs of a decrease noticeable enough to show that the practice is no longer universally exercised”.

Continue reading on Pambazuka News

by Renate Staudenmeyer and Irma Bergknecht

Photo Credit: CIAT/N. Palmer

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