The busy community centres set up by the Réseau Femmes en Action (Women in Action) network in Burkina Faso offer Internet cafés, libraries, reading areas and meeting rooms. Françoise Bibiane Yoda, Executive Director of the Réseau Femmes en Action network explained how they work.
By Christine Cayré
In Burkina Faso agriculture accounts for around 40% of the GDP. Seven out of every ten people live off the land following a lifestyle that involves hard work for women. In a strongly patriarchal social structure, the women are often denied the fruits of their labour. The revenue from agriculture is usually managed by the men, so that the women rarely own land or even own their farming equipment.
Femmes en action set itself the goal of supporting women’s abilities, a key factor in their development. The battle is being fought on several fronts, most importantly in the fields of research, advocacy and the dissemination of learning. Research in partnership with numerous development agencies has led to a better understanding of the problems facing women in the rural Burkina Faso. The advocacy element involves campaigning to change legislation and give a voice to disadvantaged women, returning their confidence and dignity and making them aware of their rights.
Community centres often specialise in production knowhow for regional specialties like rice, fruit, vegetables or maize. Each centre employs three people and offers four computers connected to the World Wide Web. The emphasis is on developing literacy, but agricultural skills are valued highly.
[callout title=Françoise Bibiane Yoda]
…is something of a militant. She says she prefers to fight for the causes she holds dear through civil society rather than through private enterprise firms and big business. She calls for an open society. In 2008, she joined the Femmes en Action network to fight poverty and discrimination against women in Burkina.
“It would be foolish to believe that we’ll change everything in one go”, says Ms Yoda, “but we focus on raising awareness. Everyone needs to feel they have a role to play in their development. Our activities are primarily targeted at women, but we’re seeing that men are increasingly joining our fight.”[/callout]
The centres attract women who want an education, students wanting to surf the Internet, farmers who have come to sell their produce and even amateur local radio presenters who then pass on their knowledge over the radio – the medium that reaches the poorest homes in the most remote parts of the country. Many come to drink at this spring of knowledge before passing on to others what they have learnt.
Françoise Bibiane Yoda will be chairing the session Les epaces commautaires de promotion des savoirs au niveau local on Thursday, May 26, 2011, from 16:45 – 18:15.