Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. Violence in its many forms, exploitation for economic aims, and the denial of basic rights remain the portion for many women and children living in this small African nation.
More and more voices in Burkina Faso are expressing the need for action, not only from government and non-government organizations, but also from ordinary men and women in this society.
Some of our social workers thought that in order to bring about justice for marginalized children, the children should be on the “front lines.”
This idea took the form of organizing a camp for adolescents. Our team leader, Nestor, explains,
“This is the first step in our mission to deliver children from abuse and violence. Like in many developmental programs, the first step is generally to remove ignorance.”
Leading children out of ignorance and into knowledge of their duties and rights was the aim of this camp.
It was a great opportunity for children to meet, play, sing and learn. Learning was the core of this camp and much room was made in the schedule for lectures and workshops covering a wide variety of topics.
One lecture and workshop tackled the issue of adolescence and sexuality. This was an important topic because adolescence is an age when children generally ask a lot of questions about their bodies and the transformation taking place.
It’s an age when young people are tempted to experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex. As a result, many cases of adolescent pregnancies are recorded every year in Burkina Faso.
This workshop was an ideal setting allowing children to share their burdens and get some answers for their concerns. Diane, an adolescent, shares,
“It was an occasion for me to share things that I couldn’t share with my parents at home.”
Camp lecturers were from a Christian organization that works regularly with the topics of family life, reproduction health and counseling. They valued and answered every question, assuring the children that their office remains wide open for them to visit and share in a more private setting.
In the afternoon a Christian movie, The Ultimate Choice, was shown. This film reinforced the lecturers’ emphasis on the necessity of making the right choices.
The following day we discussed school, which is one of the most important topics in an adolescent’s life. A lecture and workshop were developed to help adolescents understand why many backslide in their studies.
This workshop taught the children a variety of successful learning tools, provided advice about how to face learning obstacles, and how to combine school and social life.
The topic of how to study efficiently was welcomed by the adolescents, who showed much interest through persistent questions. Camp participant Andrea tells us,
“Sometimes I get bad grades at school and my parents say it’s because I didn’t study. But I know I studied hard. I just didn’t understand how it happened that I get such marks after hours of studies. Now I understand that there are methods to be a successful learner.”
Adolescents want to be heard, so on the last day of camp they decided to send a message to the whole community. One of the best ways they found was to march across town.
The route of the march was strategic: from the public school to the market to the town hall. Streamers they carried read clearly:
“NO TO THE ABUSE AND VIOLENCE DONE TO CHILDREN”
“HOW SHALL THE YOUNG MAN CLEANSE THEIR WAY?”
The aim of the march was to show the local population and non-believers that these young people have an identity they are proud of and want to defend. They are sending out a message to the adults:
“Help us grow in a safer environment, respect our rights and help stop the different forms of violence our societies do to the little ones.”
This is the message the children also gave to the mayor of the town. He shares with us,
“Although a lot has been done by our government and the local authorities, we still recognize that an enormous amount of work is ahead. I’m proud of the initiative of these children to voice their concerns.
My mission, let me reassure you, will be to share these concerns with a higher level of our administration.
It’s my first time to meet with Compassion and get to know what your organization does for our young boys and girls. This town will always be there for Compassion.
We can build together a stronger fortress to protect our children, a fortress with wide gates – gates to knowledge, gates to employment, gates to responsible heads of families and respected individuals in our community.”