“Learning to change” & fighting women’s illiteracy
According to the UNESCO*, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of exclusion from education in the world. On top of that, the quality of education leaves a lot to be desired. And the situation for girls’ and women’s education is particularly critical. Burkina Faso is one of the countries where women and girls miss out on an education in staggering numbers.
According to the UNESCO*, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of exclusion from education in the world: more than one fifth of children between 6 and 11 years old, one third of those between 12 and 14, and nearly 60% of 15- to 17-year old kids in this the region are out of school. And even when children and young people have access to education, the quality of teaching is not always up to par. There are several reasons for this. The multi-level classes are generally overcrowded and on top of that there is a lack of qualified teachers. Schools are short of school equipment and textbooks, as well as basic equipment such as access to electricity and drinking water.
Girls & Women miss out most
In this part of the world, the situation of girls’ and women’s education is particularly critical. In fact, 9 million girls between 6 and 11 will never go to school, 36% of adolescent girls are out of school, and the literacy rate of women does not exceed 50% or even 20% in some countries in the region. This has a direct impact on these women and girls, but also on the schooling of their children and, especially, their daughters.
For Aide et Action, access to education for women and girls is a major area of our work in the world, and this is particularly true for the projects we are carrying out in Africa, especially in Burkina Faso. This country has been facing a sharp deterioration in security and a slowdown in its economic growth for several years now. With such a young population – 45% of Burkina Faso’s population is under 14 years old – and schooling compulsory from 6 to 16 years, girls’ enrollment rates are even worse than in other countries. No less than 51% of girls and 47% of teenage girls are excluded from education and nearly 3.5 million women (a whopping 58% of the adult population) are illiterate*.
Focus on Women’s Literacy & Empowerment
Because of the gravity of this situation, Aide et Action, which has been active in Burkina Faso since 2001, has made literacy and women’s empowerment a priority in the country. Since 2015, in partnership with L’Occitane Foundation and the NUNUNA Federation, and in collaboration with local communities, the “Learning for Change” (APC) project has been aiming to
- promote economic and social empowerment of women
- increase the number of literate women by at least 50%
- help improve their income through the establishment of income-generating activities
- and strengthen their organizational capacities for the empowerment and sustainability of literacy centers
In the west-central region of the country, five women’s groups in Gallo, Sapouy, Gao and Oupon villages (Ziro province) and in the village of Lan (Sissili province) benefit from literacy training sessions within dedicated centers, which have been built and equipped with supplies and teaching materials by Aide et Action. At the same time, income-generating activities have been developed so, eventually, the centers can self-finance their operations. That would mean new women can be welcomed to the centers and the individual economic capacities of the beneficiaries could potentially increase. It was the women themselves who identified the economic activities they wanted to lead. In Gallo and Oupon, for example, they chose bee-keeping, in Lan they went for rice parboiling, and in Gao they opted for small livestock raising. Women are trained, the necessary materials are provided to them and they are monitored and supported by the project. Each year about 100 women, on average, benefit from the activities of the APC project.
Rosine TRAORE, Director of Aide et Action in Burkina Faso, explains: “As a woman, I think this project is very important. The majority of Burkinabe women did not have the chance to go to school. As a result, the female illiteracy rate and the poverty of women in rural areas are now very high in the country. Women’s non- or low access to manufacturing facilities is a hindrance to their empowerment. The APC project improves their condition, especially the socio-economic one. Literacy sessions allow them to acquire and develop basic skills, such as reading, writing and counting. What is learnt and acquired is then directly applicable in income-generating activities and a portion of the income earned is used to provide for family needs and schooling for children. It is a very functional project.”
Between 2016 and 2018, thanks to the APC project, four literacy centers were built and equipped and another one was equipped. Three literacy campaigns of six months each were organized and 122 women benefited from this. The APC project has a tangible impact on these women’s daily lives, but also on their self-esteem as evident from the testimonies of these women: “I set the price of what I sell at the market and I do not get swindled (…) I am able to use my mobile phone alone, without having to ask for help (…) I have more confidence in myself, I approach others more easily (…) I can write my name and it gives me the feeling of existence even more than before.”
Furthermore, APC also has a positive impact on the schooling of children: “It is very important that my children go to school, that they have the chance that we did not have (…) From now on, I can monitor their schooling, understand their grades, and know whether they have worked well or not. Before, I could not evaluate progress. Today, I can go see their teacher to understand and help my children at home.”
*source: UNESCO Institute of Statistics