If you are born, grow up and live in a context where the woman is considered inferior to the man, at the first slap you won’t say anything, because it will seem normal, you will feel you deserved it, it will seem right. If you are born, grow up and live in such a context, when your husband comes home at night and shouts that dinner isn’t ready yet and there is dust in the corner, you will feel guilty for being late to collect tons of wood in the woods, carrying it on your shoulders. You’ll agree with him and apologize. If you are born, raised and live in such a context and no one tells you, you simply cannot know that this is not okay, not normal at all and that you have rights.

That’s why in the last two months, with the project “Social and rights promotion of women and children for the improvement of health and civil status services”, co-financed by the European Union under the “Population” program, we have trained civil society organizations from 7 provinces in 3 regions of Burkina Faso on what gender-based violence is, how to recognize its signs, what are the tools for protection and how to accompany victims to get the psychological and legal support they need.

The training, aimed at people, both men and women, with a certain level of education and open-mindedness in order to empower them within their communities, started from a very simple question: what is a purely male and a purely female task? The answers were the ones we can imagine: “the woman has to take care of the children”, “the woman has to cook”, “the woman has to take care of the house”, “the man works”.

The trainer then asked the men in attendance if it had ever occurred to them to sweep the yard or wash dishes. Most of them answered yes. She then asked them to stand up and show themselves properly: indeed, they did not appear to have suffered any permanent damage. Laughter in the room. It was then shown visually, with the help of signs, the number of tasks and duties that traditionally fall to the woman and those that are instead attributed to the man. They were read out and each was assigned a realistic time frame. At the end there was silence in the room. And at that point, faced with a slight embarrassment but above all a greater understanding, we began to talk about violence, which is wrong regardless of cultural context and habits, which must be denounced and whose victims must be identified and supported.

The participants accepted the challenge: they confronted themselves with very raw and hard cases from their communities (we’re talking about child brides, 11 year old girls impregnated by a family member and then removed from the family as witches, female genital mutilation and much more) and committed themselves to be a reference point, both to raise awareness among people in their area, and to take charge of identifying and supporting victims with the tools that the law provides.

In the coming months, we will be organizing theater sessions to get right to the heart of communities and spread the message, so that the same potential victims know where to turn if they need help. And we hope that change starts here, with the realization that NO!, it’s not fair.

Below are some photos of the formation:

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