8 Mars aka International Woman’s Day is a huge deal in Burkina Faso.
It’s considered a holiday so there is no school. As well, in some villages, there are always all sorts of activities going on in every village to celebrate their hard working women, and spark discussions about the hardships woman still face.
Men are also responsible for all the house work (“women’s work”)for the day. They go to the maket, cook dinner, wash clothes, take care of the kids, and clean the house.
At school, the students are learning about, and discussing forced marriages, and spousal abuse in the hope that they will be able carry change with them as they grow up.
As PC Burkina is looking for 100% of volunteers to spend some time doing gender related this week I decided to spend the week discussing the”time poverty” experienced by women and girls, and the importance of girls education.
To begin I had the students write out their daily schedules. Explaining what time they get up, when they go to school, when they study, and when they do other household choirs.
Once that was finished, I asked the boys what they do everyday, and then the girl, and wrote the activities in different colums on the board.
Next, I asked if there are similarities, and because there are (though boys said there aren’t and girls said there are), I drew a line through everything they had in common. I then asked the students who’s list who they do those activities for.
For example, I asked the girls who they wash clothes for, and they said “for everyone in the family.” When I aske the boys (as a few said they do wash clothes) they said they only wash for themselves.
I then asked the boys if they thought girls had much free time, and if they don’t, does that mean they have a lot of time to study for school.
Of course not.
I then explained the “time poverty,” graph, and that woman work more unpaid hours than men.
Some students were quite surprised, and expressed that it wasn’t fair. While others said it’s because women can’t do the same work as men for money.
Though when pressed for an explanation as to why women can’t do the same work as men, the boys were hard pressed to come up with a good reason.
I explained that of course women can do the same work as men, and if we want gender equality men should work as partners to women, in and outside the home, by supporting women, and by helping out at home so women are not bearing an unfair load.
The next class I presented a short bio on Mrs. Konan Dicoh Mariam aka Côte d’Ivoire’s first female chemist, and the face of the 25 CFA coin.
After reading the biography I showed my class the Secondary school pass rates in Burkina in 2014 (11.4% of boys, and 6.6% of girls conpleted secondary school). After which, my class discussed the importance of education, and the difficulties girls face in their quest to complete their education.
Though I think by my second session my students were a little bored with the discussion, (I could feel their exasperation in their silence as I asked how we can help girls complete their education) can only hope that the message stuck, and my students (both girls and boys alike) will be plugging for gender equality in the future.