In December, the climate of Burkina Faso is perfect: during the day it is hot but not too hot (around 35° which by local standards means long-sleeved shirt), at night the temperature drops to around 20°, so as to sleep comfortably with the open window and a cover on you. With this mild climate, people spend much more time outdoors and it is therefore the best time to carry out awareness activities in communities.
With the team of the project “Social and rights promotion of women and children for the improvement of health and civil status services”, funded by the European Union as part of the “population” program headed by the ACRA Foundation, and together with some local theater companies, in recent weeks we have visited the markets of seven provinces to talk about the problem of gender violence.
If in Italy there is much talk (though never enough) of femicide, here in Burkina Faso the types of violence are different, but the problem exists and it is very serious. In fact, in Burkina more than 1 in 3 women (exactly 37%) declares to have been a victim of violence during her life (Sigi-OECD Report 2018) and out of 1,861 cases of people victims of domestic violence, 67% are women (Annual statistics report of the Ministry of Women and the Family 2018).
We therefore find ourselves in a context in which, despite being the signatory country of the main international conventions on the protection of human rights, women still suffer violence, justified in some cases by socio-cultural habits and traditions. Among the actions and violence to which women are subjected are repudiation, rape, forced marriage, genital mutilation and the removal of women for witchcraft. Furthermore, women are often also excluded from the inheritance, as if they were not part of the family like men, and if there is a choice of who to send to school, the male child is always privileged.
All this happens even if the Burkinabé Constitution establishes equality between men and women. Thus, talking about this problem and raising awareness as many people as possible becomes urgent and fundamental. And forum theater is the ideal tool. It is in fact an artistic form that was created to make people reflect: the piece shows a real situation, in which the public is confronted with a problem, and then the participants are called to interact with the actors to give their interpretation of the facts and their opinion. They are always very animated moments in which many wish to express themselves, have their say and sometimes share their experiences. Eventually we return home with a lesson.
Awareness raising is not, however, an isolated activity. In fact, always within the same project, we are training local organizations on women’s rights, so that they can become a reference and listening point for those who need them and are able to help any victims and direct them towards the competent bodies.
Here are some photos of a forum theater performance starring the actors and actresses of theater companies and some audience participants.