©UNICEF Burkina Faso/2005/ Despointes
By Jean-Jacques Nduita
Young girl doing domestic chores in Banfora, Burkina Faso.
The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child will be the theme of the 51st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women from 26 February to 9 March 2007. Here is one in a series of related stories.
TOUGAN, Burkina Faso, 16 February 2007 – Seated on an old-fashioned bamboo chair with her eyes downcast, Djerma Salimata, 20, does not seem eager to think back to the time when she worked as house help in Bobo Dioulasso, the second largest city in Burkina Faso.
She went there in search of happiness, but all kinds of ill-treatments turned her life into a nightmare.
After completing second grade, Djerma wasn’t able to pursue her studies because her parents could not afford school fees. Faced with rampant poverty in Sourou Province – which is also known as a centre of child trafficking in Burkina Faso – Djerma, though still very young, travelled to Bobo Dioulasso to work as a domestic servant.
“When working in Dioulasso, I would be up at six in the morning and would not go to bed until 10 p.m.,” she recalled. “Nobody cared whenever I fell sick.”
Djerma did her best to please her boss, but she was rewarded with trivial wages and incessant insults from the household’s eldest daughter. “You must be born into a very poor family,” the daughter would tell her. “I wonder what would have become of you if we had not hired your services.”
© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2005/ Despointes
Training centre for adolescent girls
Girls dyeing fabric in Tougan, Burkina Faso.
Djerma worked with the family for two years until she discovered the Training and Resources Centre in Tougan, her hometown. Some of her friends, who had been in situations similar to Djerma’s, recommended the programme.
The UNICEF-supported centre works to stop trafficking of children by convincing parents, officials and communities of the benefits of keeping adolescents in their homelands. By promoting girls’ and mothers’ access to income-generating activities and education, the centre makes it less attractive to send the girls away.
Since she joined the programme nine months ago, Djerma has learned to read and write in French and Dioula, the predominant local language. She is now completing her training in dyeing and sewing in order to realize her dream of starting her own business.
From maid to business owner
Since it opened, the Tougan centre has trained 160 girls in literacy and income-generating skills. About 80 of them are still attending evening classes to complete their primary education, while 20 others are now teaching at the centre.
When students graduate, they receive a grant of 100,000 CFA (about $200) to pay for establishing their own business. So far, six of the centre’s former students have become business owners.
While UNICEF-supported activities such as the Training and Resource Centre have improved the lives of many young girls in Burkina Faso, more help is needed to stop trafficking and provide education and employment opportunities to children and adolescents in the country.
“Recent information reveals that many young girls are crossing over to Mali in search of jobs,” said provincial High Commissioner Arsène Kayaba. “Nobody can tell exactly in which conditions they are settling down up there. It raises some concerns in regard not only to child trafficking but also to HIV/AIDS.”