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Standing up for the rights of displaced girls in Burkina Faso

Girls' Rights Refugees

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been the target of terrorist attacks that have resulted in turmoil and internal displacements. Over the past year, the security situation became highly volatile, with the number of registered internally displaced persons (IDPs) reaching nearly 2 million as of 31 January 2023 according to the national authority, CONASUR.

23-year-old Bernadette, a youth leader from a host community supported by Plan International, wants to improve the lives of displaced girls living in the city of Koupéla in the Centre-East region of Burkina Faso. The regional capital is now accommodating around 8,000 IDPs who have been displaced by the ongoing violence in the area.

Bernadette is a member of one of our partner associations Jeunesse sans Frontières and is part of a project set up by Plan International to support young people and adolescent girls in crisis as part of our Central Sahel response.

Providing training for income generation

Today, Bernadette is visiting one of the IDP sites in the town to teach girls how to produce liquid soap, which they can use to manage their personal hygiene or sell to earn an income. Along with two other young people from the association, Bernadette starts her soap making workshop which is attended by 15 girls aged 18 to 24.

“The aim is to enable them to earn some money by producing and selling liquid soap, and by doing so reduce their expenses, since they will no longer have to buy soap for their own needs,” Bernadette tells us. “We explain to them the ingredients needed to make liquid soap and hold a practical training session.”

Making soap in Burkina Faso

At the end of the activity, each girl goes home with a bucket and a spatula, the main tools they will need to start their soap making venture. “The production of liquid soap will allow me to have soap for washing clothes and dishes,” says Jemima, 18, one of the girls who took part in the training. “I will also be able to sell it to make money.”

In the past years, Bernadette and the other members of her association have carried out many activities to help IDPs in the city of Koupéla, especially girls: “We have organised talks on the promotion of girls’ rights, on gender-based violence, on women’s empowerment, and we have also carried out activities to support the political engagement of girls.”

Bernadette would like to see more action in favour of IDPs: “They should be trained in income generating activities, because when you teach someone to fish, you feed him or her for a lifetime.”

The mother of a baby boy, Bernadette has another idea for an activity to help young, displaced mothers: “I would like to teach them how to make porridge so they can feed their children better, it is a nutritious porridge that does not cost much to cook.”

Having gone to school with many internally displaced students and becoming friends with several, Bernadette tells us that she has an affinity for the community. “I feel close to them, we often visit them at their site. Some of them call me when they have problems. We try to find solutions and give them advice. We talk a lot. Like all girls, they have dreams that they would like to achieve one day, despite their situation.”

The importance of involving youth

When asked about her ideas for dealing with the unprecedented crisis her country has been going through since 2019, Bernadette says: “Youth are key to changing things. We must really involve youth. We must all work together to find peace because this situation can spread to other regions if nothing is done. The message I have for everyone is that we are all different, but we have the world in common and we need peace to build this world.”

IDP girls with their liquid soap

About the project

Burkina Faso’s Centre-East region is one of the areas covered by the project “Youth and Adolescent Girls in Crisis in the Central Sahel Response” implemented by Plan International and its partners in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. This project supports young people, especially girls and young women, working with them through their own associations, by increasing economic and social assets, improving social cohesion, adaptation to climate change, and strengthening gender transformation.