Letting Girls Be Girls

Despite positive actions taken by the Burkinabe government, early and forced marriage is at crisis levels in Burkina Faso with up to 70% of girls in some regions being married off as children. The Ti ba fidi project which means “Zero Tolerance against early marriage for Eastern girls” aims to ensure that girls can be girls, free to attend school, marrying a husband of their own choosing, at an appropriate time.

 

 

The Ti ba fidi project

With local partner Coalition Burkinabé pour les Droits de la femme (CBDF) CBDF, a local women’s rights organization, Crossroads has launched 10 Girls’ clubs in 5 villages directly supporting 200 teenage girls at risk of forced marriage. The program reaches the most vulnerable including girls out of schools. The clubs are safe spaces where girls learn about gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and their rights.

“My role as a mentor is to listen to the girls, advise them, teach them self-confidence and be a role model for other teenage girls,” says Marie-Aimée Moyenga one a dozen mentors recruited to to work with girls in and out of school. “I also advocated to parents and village leaders.”

Extreme poverty, lack of education and the influence of traditions and culture all contribute to child marriage. Early marriage means that men often expect their new child bride to become pregnant quickly, with spousal rape is common. These girls are often forced to leave school once they become pregnant and often never return.

 

 

The story of Ella

Ella* was forced to marry a man but had not yet joined her husband. Moyenga worked with Ella to support her and her family in rethinking an early marriage.

Moyenga approached Ella, with the support of a mother whose daughter also attended the club and Ella shared her situation. Moyenga met with her family to help them understand the risks of early and forced marriage. Ella’s younger sister had also been married early at the age of 17, just after obtaining her high school diploma; which slowed down her schooling and her personal growth. After the meeting and strong advocacy from the mentor, the family agreed to forgo marrying Ella. Ella is now an active member and through different club activities themes, her emotional state changed; she is now happier, and is always the first to come to the meetings of the clubs.

 

SpREADING THE WORD

Crossroads’ volunteer and mother of 3, Yvonne Sawadogo joined CBDF as a Communications Officer and is supporting the expansion of the program and the community reach in person and online. Sawadogo introduced new tools and promotional material and helped increase their team’s skills and expertise using social media channels. By raising awareness directly with girls, their parents and community leaders, the « Ti ba fidi » project shows the importance of education, contraception and girls’ rights to choose. It hopes to change the conversation in several communities outside of the initiative by creating a mobile task force, attending radio shows, organizing movie projections and finding urgent solutions for girls in need.

 

*the name has been changed