Beyond the End of the Road
            with Natalie Elwell

              Associate Vice President
     Action Learning Co...
Three years ago I traveled to Burkina Faso




                                                 Natalie’s Travels in Burki...
Burkina Faso has one of the highest infant and
child, as well as maternal mortality rates in
Africa. Imagine traversing a ...
While geographic remoteness marginalizes
these villages, patriarchal traditions marginalize




                          ...
World Neighbors programs had made some
advances in the status of women involved in our
programs, but in 2005 we initiated ...
This seems like a tall order when you consider
the starting point – read about “A Day in the




                         ...
In 2006 and 2007 a couple of women involved
in our programs who exemplified leadership




                               ...
Pauline was involved in a self-help women’s
group in her village that loaned money to
members to initiate individual incom...
Knowing the importance of sharing experiences,
the women in Pauline’s groups dedicated




                               ...
In Burkina Faso it is customary for villagers to




                                                       Natalie’s Trav...
Thanks for your interest.
Please feel free to contact me
with questions or comments.

Natalie Elwell
Associate Vice Presid...
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Burkina Faso Digital Trip Report

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Burkina Faso Digital Trip Report

  1. 1. Beyond the End of the Road with Natalie Elwell Associate Vice President Action Learning Communication & Gender World Neighbors, Inc. Burkina Faso: Not all who wander are lost…
  2. 2. Three years ago I traveled to Burkina Faso Natalie’s Travels in Burkina Faso for the first time. This was an emotionally difficult trip as, despite visiting during the harvest season, the poverty was the most extreme I’d seen. World Neighbors had recently begun working in several new communities situated far from even a dirt road. These communities suffered from a severe lack of natural resources: water, fuel wood, soil, As distant drums beat compounded by natural hardships: draught, in anticipation of our arrival we feared we insect infestations, and soil erosion to name would be stuck until a few. If that weren’t bad enough, the dry season. The government services such as health care, villagers eventually infrastructure and education rarely made came and pushed us their way to these remote villages. to the footpath leading to their village.
  3. 3. Burkina Faso has one of the highest infant and child, as well as maternal mortality rates in Africa. Imagine traversing a day or more along Natalie’s Travels in Burkina Faso those gullied paths to access a health clinic when complications arise while delivering your baby in your home, or carrying a child sick with malaria or diarrhea on a bike, or donkey cart if you’re lucky. A packed mud slab in a thatch-covered hut served World Neighbors works with communities to as a birthing and pre and establish village health centers and to train post-natal care center in volunteer community health workers to many villages – often recognize danger signs during pregnancy, and built as an outpost for to provide information on improved nutrition, government health personnel. Lydia Tapsoba hygiene and disease prevention. Zanze, pictured, is World Nutrition surveys and health center records Neighbors West Africa show that this strategy is working to reduce Area Health Coordinator. disease, increase child nutrition and the number of births attended by professionals in a clinic.
  4. 4. While geographic remoteness marginalizes these villages, patriarchal traditions marginalize Natalie’s Travels in Burkina Faso women within their villages. Even when healthcare is available women were often not permitted to use family funds to access the services. An assessment of women’s status in new These women were illiterate and only able to program areas revealed that the value of communicate in their women was on par with that of a mule. village dialect,, one of Although I noticed that while the mules had many factors isolating padding on their burdened backs, women’s them from inter-village were bare. and market activities. Women’s heavy workload was but one barrier to their participation in development activities. When I met these women three years ago they were so shy and insecure they wouldn’t even tell us their names. They knew their lives were difficult, they just thought that was a woman’s lot.
  5. 5. World Neighbors programs had made some advances in the status of women involved in our programs, but in 2005 we initiated an effort to Natalie’s Travels in Burkina Faso strengthen our work in this regard. With the support of New Field Foundation, World Neighbors identified the key factors for women’s advancement and tested the application of those key factors in several programs, including West Africa, with the result of more rapid, widespread advancements for women. And let’s not forget that advancements for women translate into benefits for their families and communities! These were the only Those key factors: literate women in a group of 200 Awareness of rights Literacy Economic empowerment Decision making Leadership Not to mention a little attitude adjustment for men☺!
  6. 6. This seems like a tall order when you consider the starting point – read about “A Day in the Natalie’s Travels in Burkina Faso Life of a West African Woman” in this WOW! issue brief : http://www.workofwomen.org/2008-08- Issue-Brief.php. But our team in West Africa went to work Our local partner’s roaming theatre troupe treated me training community members to campaign to a special performance. door to door about issues such as domestic The troupe goes from violence, dowry, forced marriage and village to village performing discrimination in the schools; fostering skits about inequitable communication skills between couples - which situations in the family and community and prompting goes a long way in helping men support discussions about change. women’s advancements; providing literacy training for women; organizing women into associations for income generating activities; and identifying and strengthening the skills of women leaders.
  7. 7. In 2006 and 2007 a couple of women involved in our programs who exemplified leadership Natalie’s Travels in Burkina Faso qualities received support from the New Field Foundation to participate in the World Social Forums held in Mali and Kenya. Inspired and motivated, these women returned to their villages and began organizing. Prompted by reports of their dramatic achievements, I returned to Burkina Faso this past January, during a dry season aggravated by drought. Although the forecast from district After Tindanu spoke chiefs about food scarcity was grim, I met of the changes in her woman after woman confident that her children community, her would not go hungry. husband confirmed they were for the In every village we visited, women stood in better with a rare front of the crowd and “visiting dignitaries,” and public display of spoke of their accomplishments while their affection. Read about husbands listened with respect and pride. their story in the Fall issue of Neighbors
  8. 8. Pauline was involved in a self-help women’s group in her village that loaned money to members to initiate individual income- Natalie’s Travels in Burkina Faso generating activities. However, when Pauline returned from the World Social Forum she was full of fresh ideas and the knowledge that other women were doing more than loaning money, they were affecting social change. It wasn’t long before her group began to leverage their Pauline’s leadership skills collective voice to prioritize women’s recently got her elected community development needs resulting in to the vice president literacy training, HIV screenings, rainwater position of the inter- collection tanks, and awareness raising on rights. village association which guides the development Some women were initially forbidden by their activities of 22 villages. husbands to participate. However, once they witnessed the benefits gained by participating women’s families, those husbands not only opened their doors, they started helping with their chores so they’d have time to participate.
  9. 9. Knowing the importance of sharing experiences, the women in Pauline’s groups dedicated Natalie’s Travels in Burkina Faso themselves to traveling to other villages to train women to start self-help groups. The women in these groups report significant improvements in their well-being: Individual The women in Gorgo and collective income generating activities give village formed their group women decision making power over a portion after hearing from Pauline. of the household money so they can purchase With some of the profits more nutritious food, send their kids to school, from their collective peanut marketing activities they access health services, and maybe even buy new purchased a uniform which clothes. they call their “cloth of Literacy classes, couple communication joy”. exercises, and sensitization sessions about rights and gender relations have helped reduce domestic violence, forced marriage, polygamy, female genital mutilation and risky sexual behavior.
  10. 10. In Burkina Faso it is customary for villagers to Natalie’s Travels in Burkina Faso collectively give a gift to their departing visitor. On my first visit I felt like I was taking food from the mouths of children when I was given a couple of chickens. This year I am confident that no one will go hungry because of my visit. On behalf of World Although I’m not entirely sure that the goat Neighbors I accept gifts of and guinea fowl weren’t really a symbol of my goat, guinea fowl, peanuts betrothal to become the seventh wife of the and cloth from the Prefect district chief - as my colleagues teased. and Inspector of Basic Education in Yargatenga who represent the local government and Department Chief.
  11. 11. Thanks for your interest. Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments. Natalie Elwell Associate Vice President Action Learning Communication & Gender World Neighbors, Inc. 4127 NW 122nd Street OKC, OK 73120 USA (405)752-9700 nelwell@wn.org www.wn.org Check back soon for updates on our efforts to address gender inequity in Central and South America

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