How are Gender and Environment Connected? Look to Grassroots work in Burkina Faso

Written by Diane Connors, BC Council for Global Cooperation

Interview with Charles Tankoano, Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés and Judy Gray, World Neighbours Canada Director

Charles Tankoano had come a long way when he walked out of the chill Vancouver air and into the BCCIC office. “He hasn’t taken off his jacket since his arrival,” Judy Gray chuckled as the small group settled into their chairs. Charles had arrived from Burkina Faso, a small country in West Africa, earlier in the week. His visit to British Columbia was a whirlwind of presentations with schools, community groups, and donors of World Neighbours Canada, which, thanks to funding from Global Affairs Canada, is the partner organization that brought him over and supports his work in Burkina Faso.

Charles spoke only French, requiring Judy to translate for those who did not know the language. The group, consisting of Charles and 3 members of World Neighbours Canada, had come to BCCIC to use the teleconference system to hold a call with their project manager from Global Affairs Canada and a GAC International Development officer who will be travelling to Burkina Faso in the near future. As the call started up and the inevitable technical issues were mitigated, a photo slideshow appeared on the screen while Charles explained the work being done in 18 rural villages. The images showed children receiving medical care, people eating together, and people working with the flat, dry land in the Fada region of the eastern part of the country. This call was a valuable connection – giving voice to Charles to share the challenges and successes of community development, and strengthening the relationship between Global Affairs and a small Canadian development organization that receives project funding.

After the conference, we sat and talked a while about the organization Charles leads, called Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés, or APDC for short. Charles explained that the organization began in 2002, with the vision of promoting sustainable and equitable development in poor and marginalized communities in Eastern Burkina Faso through capacity building of individuals and villages. The areas of focus for the projects include: food security, community health, female leadership and gender issues, environmental protection, drinking water supply, and adult literacy. Drinking water and adult literacy are addressed by APDC despite not having funding for these projects, as they realize that these two areas are critical to long term improvements.

As Charles spoke it was clear that the areas of focus were all linked – working in one area will often strengthen another. APDC’s gender work is particularly compelling, and some of the earliest initiatives addressed the connection between women and the land. At the village level, APDC promoted the idea that women have the right to work a parcel of land, and have access to that plot year after year, so that she might improve the soil and benefit from the productivity. This was done in line with the national government making policy changes and providing women access to land. APDC also reinforced the notion that when men and women work together, their lives and their children’s lives are better. This is mostly achieved through information sessions with men, giving examples and working through questions that reveal truths and inequalities. Through this work the men gradually come to new understandings such as the fact that women should not be doing hard labour when they are in late stages of pregnancy, and that household work should be shared between a husband and wife. Cultural changes like these are APDC’s goal, but there is still much work to be done in this area for these ideas to be accepted by the majority of villagers.

“I managed to get this great picture,” Judy said as she turned her laptop, showing a photo of a man and woman, side by side with the woman’s arm around her husband’s side. “Charles explained that 10 years ago, public demonstration of any kind of affection would not be visible or accepted. It’s a sign of progress.” Part of this progress has been enabled directly through Global Affairs Canada funding, as a Gender Consultant (local Burkinese professional) has been hired to evaluate APDC’s current gender initiatives and provide suggestions for enhancing this work. The resulting recommendations have been incorporated into project programming where possible. The improvement in gender equality often filters into benefits in other areas: improved supports for pregnant women, improved nutrition for children and pregnant women, improved environmental practices and improvements in health care. It also helps to develop a sense of community, which is an underlying foundational goal of APDC projects.

Charles explained that he gained experience in development work through a few different paths. He started out studying agriculture and agronomy in the nearby countries of Ivory Coast and Niger, and he began working with the Burkina Faso government, teaching farmers how to improve soil conservation. Over time he began to find the bureaucracy of the government frustrating, and wanted more freedom to work directly on strengthening community capacity. He worked for several NGOs; in particular an NGO in Senegal, where he solidified his understanding of a participatory philosophy in development. Then, he formed his own organization to address the needs of people in his home country of Burkina Faso. When asked why he pursued such challenging work he simply explained that he had a desire to work with people who are marginalized, taking into account their own culture and respecting their values.

When looking at the communities in the context of the future, the topic of climate change came up. One of the reasons for the impoverishment of the region is that the land is difficult to make productive due to less and less rain falling every year. Charles explained that though the people are mostly illiterate and uneducated, they don’t need to be told what climate change is. Living near the desert, it is already obvious that climate change has arrived: now there is only 3 months of rain per year on average, versus the 6 months of rain that could be expected in the past. The progression of climate change requires more tools for communities in these hard hit areas to be able to mitigate the effects of a warmer world – Charles explained that “the people of Eastern Burkina Faso are forgotten by the government and are being left further and further behind. More resources will be needed to mitigate the effects of climate change.” APDC is doing its best to address these challenges with simple but effective techniques, such as getting the right seeds to withstand dry conditions, creating and using compost, keeping trees to prevent erosion, and building “stone ribbons” along the fields to allow the water to soak into the soil more. These measures have already helped people to increase yields by as much as 50%.

Though the challenges are still great, and change is slow, Charles has seen significant improvements for people in the region over the years. With the help of APDC, people have learned to vary production with diverse activities and better techniques, which has improved nutrition, community resilience, and environmental stewardship. More children are getting vaccinated, and women’s health is improving, especially as attitudes toward family planning shift. The improved relationship between men and women has resulted in building up the confidence of women, which is visible when women speak at meetings and there is an expectation that they will be listened to. These things together create a more hopeful picture for Burkina Faso, though it is one of the lowest listed countries on the UN Human Development Index. Charles explains that he is always in a state of self reflection, asking whether he is doing the right things, and providing the right support. He says the next project is to look at new strategies and solutions for Burkina Faso in a changing world, to push further and go the next step.

 

World Neighbours Canada is a member of the BC Council for Global Cooperation, which is a network of global development organizations based in British Columbia, working toward sustainable development both at home and around the world.

Deadly Attack in Burkina Faso Today

We have learned that there was a deadly attack in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, today in which eight gunmen and eight security were killed and over 80 people injured, including civilians. The attacks were aimed at the French Embassy and the military HQ.

Reports suggest that this was a terrorist attack aimed at retaliating against France’s increased effort to combat terrorism in the regions. Another reports suggests it might have been carried out by disgruntled members of the military.

We are waiting to hear from our partners at APDC to ensure they, and their families have not been affected. We will also have to wait and see if this will affect Charles Tankoano’s trip to BC in a couple weeks.

Right now there is too much uncertainty but if you would like more details check out the following articles (Ouest-France is in French).

BBC

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-43257453

Ouest-France

https://www.ouest-france.fr/monde/burkina-faso/burkina-faso-tirs-dans-le-centre-de-ouagadougou-pres-de-l-ambassade-de-france-5599045

NY Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/world/africa/burkina-faso-embassy-attack.html

Introducing Gender Equality Consultant, Mme Lydia Tapsoba

 

Lydia Tapsoba

Photo and article by Judy Gray

We would like to introduce Mme. Lydia TAPSOBA who is currently supporting our partner NGO, in Burkina Faso (APDC) with Gender and Gender Equality activities. Lydia is a sociologist and holds a professional degree in Social Statistics and a Master’s degree in project management. She has over 15 years of experience in community development, communication for behavioral change and gender mainstreaming in development programs. Lydia has worked with the following NGOs: Medicus Mundi, World Neighbors Oklahoma, Save the Children, and the Catholic Relief Services in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Togo.

Recently, Lydia was hired by APDC as a Gender Equity consultant.  As part of the current grant from Global Affairs Canada, greater emphasis is being placed on gender and gender equality and although this has long been part of APDC’s activities,  they sought to add to their knowledge of topics in this domain.  Lydia supported the development of the APDC Gender Action Plan, the training of 4 APDC field workers on gender and food and nutrition security, and rural entrepreneurship. She is also in charge of monitoring the implementation of the gender action plan. She has also trained 72 women leaders from the project villages on gender and gender-based violence.

Lydia is currently Gender and Nutrition Specialist for the Sahel Resilience to Food and Nutrition Insecurity Program. She is vice-chair of the board of directors of Mwangaza Action, an international NGO specializing in social mobilization issues.

Lydia is married and has a 3 year old daughter. Judy Gray had the pleasure of meeting Lydia last February while in Burkina Faso and hopes to spend a short while with her again this year, in the project area, during an upcoming mission to Fada.

Honduras Political Situation Still of Concern

By Gabriel Newman

This is what we know about what is happening in Honduras so far:

On November 26, 2017 Honduras held national elections and the region is still in a state of political tension. The Organization of American States has called for a re-election, and opposition parties are citing election fraud, but the Honduran election commission has declared the re-election of Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández.

The resulting protests and violence resulted in at least 31 people dead.

The US State Department has recognized the re-election of Mr. Hernandez despite opposition from US politicians. Canada has not officially endorsed or condemned the elections.

Protests are continuing, and state police are visible in all major centers and along roads,  making it difficult to move around the country.

Our partners at Vecinos Honduras are safe and, unfortunately, used to political unrest.

Below are more in-depth articles which get into the history of the region, the accusations and some of the politics.

A great article from the Independent written before the election giving background into the political situation in Honduras

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/honduras-protest-election-fraud-juan-orlando-hernandez-salvador-nasralla-manuel-zelaya-a8146501.html

From the New York Times January 6, 2018

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/17/world/americas/honduran-presidential-election.html

The Guardian December 18 and 22, 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/18/honduras-election-president-juan-orlando-hernandez-declared-winner-amid-unrest

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/22/us-recognizes-re-election-of-honduras-president-despite-calls-for-a-new-vote

Bathing in Private is a Luxury

By Gabriel Newman based on information from Suresh Shrestha

In the small villages of Nepal almost all women, except for the few who have private baths or toilets at their house, must bath outside openly at the public tap or traditional sources, such as rivers, wearing their clothes (just opening the area up to the bra). Obviously, this is not ideal from a hygienic perspective or from the perspective of personal freedom and privacy.

Where there are outside toilets/baths with enough space, women may be able to bath their entire body, but this practice is very rare.  Whereas, women who have private bath/toilet at their homes, especially in town with concrete houses, can remove all outer clothes before bathing.

World Neighbours is currently working with TTS to build toilets in Ramechhap but the current design is small and cannot be adapted at this stage of the project to include bathing space. When the design was chosen the issue of women’s bathing was unknown to us and had not been factored in with most projects in the region.

We will however, look at adapting the design for future projects as we think this is an important issue. This would also require incentives to convince villagers to adapt to the idea of a bathing and toilet room.

Christmas Gift Idea!

Are you looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Please consider making a donation to World Neighbours Canada in someone’s name.

Your family member or friend will receive a beautiful handmade card with a photo from one of our programs, and a needy community will benefit from your generosity. Our cards are made individually by our volunteers, so if you would like photos from a particular country that we work in, just let us know!

And remember, the entire amount of your donation will go directly to support one of our programs in Nepal, Burkina Faso, or Honduras.

To arrange this, visit our donation page by clicking here. You can choose to make a one-time or recurring donation of any amount, and enter information about who you would like us to send the card to.

As always, contact us anytime for more information.

The toilet or the house … the perspective from Nepal

by Libby Denbigh, with information from Suresh Shrestha

“The best-laid plans, or, what comes first, the toilet or the house?”

In Nepal, for example, the government has decided to push ahead with a plan to ensure that every village household is equipped with a toilet. The goal is to do away with the centuries-old practice of open defecation in the rural areas. To Western minds, this seems a worthy ambition. But to some Nepali families, those who have lost their houses in the earthquake of 2015, this edict can seem nothing short of ridiculous. Since the quake, many people are still waiting to qualify for government assistance to rebuild their homes. Why, they ask, while camping atop a pile of rubbish that used to be their cozy cottage, why should we build a latrine when what we really need to be doing is putting a roof over our heads?

For Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti, or TSS, our partner NGO in Nepal, and by extension, for World Neighbours Canada, this poses a dilemma. Because of our mandate, our funds from Canadian donations have been earmarked to build toilets in some of these same villages. But there can be resistance from villagers who see this as just a way of putting the proverbial “cart before the
horse”. For some of them, the only way they can see to hold the government accountable for their lack of housing is to say “no” to the construction of toilets. No house, no toilet.

Understandably, TSS is reluctant to be caught in the middle of such a dispute. Luckily most villages which are working with TSS do understand the difference and are still willing to go ahead and install latrines with donations from World Neighbours Canada.

Exploring the Historical Roots in Nepal: Celebrating 28 Years of Partnership

by Navjot Gill, WNC director

As the youngest member on the WNC Board of Directors, I had the unique opportunity to explore the historical roots of our community partnership in Ramechhap, Nepal during a short visit to the country in early January 2017.

Mrs. Durga Ghimire and I sharing 28 years of partnership between WNC and TSS.

This year, we are celebrating 28 years of partnership with Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti (TSS is our partner organization in Nepal). TSS was established in 1984 by the late Mr. Jagadish Ghimire and Mrs. Durga Ghimire. Throughout the years, I have had the pleasure of reflecting back on the early days of the organization through stories that were shared by individuals who have been part of the movement since the 1980s, such as Suresh Shrestha (current program coordinator) and Dr. Suman Karmacharya (current physician at TSS hospital). I remember sitting in the TSS courtyard and following the descriptive narrative of what the buildings and facilities looked like 10, 15, and 20 years ago. Often, I have had the honour of hearing about the Ghimire family, the family’s vision and commitment that inspired the creation of TSS and how their roots in social justice created a community-based foundation for everyone to build from.

This visit, I had the honour of meeting with Mrs. Durga Ghimire and her son, Himal Ghimire. It was truly a unique experience to learn about their journey with social justice, literature, and advocacy in regards to Ramechhap and also at the national level. Mrs. Ghimire is a renowned activist for women’s rights, safe migration and human trafficking. She founded Agroforestry, Basic health and Cooperative Nepal (ABC Nepal), which is an organization that is grounded in advocating for the rights of women and dismantling human trafficking practices. Further, the late Mr. Jagadish Ghimire is remembered by the nation for his great contributions to Nepal’s literature, his lifelong commitment to activism and grassroots planning, and his political contributions. On this occasion, we sat, reflecting back on TSS, sharing a meal together, and fostering a relationship that started 28 years ago by folks at World Neighbours Canada, some who we are still honoured to have on our Board, and others whom we miss dearly.

Donation from Oliver Rotary – much appreciated!

by Russell Work and Dale Dodge, posted by Judy Gray

It was a Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas for all concerned. The Oliver Rotary Club was pleased to be able to make a second donation to World Neighbours Canada in the amount of $4000 for their projects in Nepal. President Jennifer Roussel and International Director, Russell Work were on hand to present the cheque to Director, Dale Dodge.

As Dale Dodge, director with WNC stated: “The money is very welcome and will be put towards the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) Maternal-Child Health project presently under way in Nepal. WNC and their partner Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti (TSS) are working with villagers in Nepal to install 21 gravity fed water systems and 4200 sealed, hygienic toilets in the next 4 years. The project is now into its second year and, despite a huge earthquake in Nepal two years ago, things are moving along well.”

 

Greeting 2017 positively!

posted by Judy Gray, with quotes from our partners – Vecinos Honduras and APDC

Our partner organizations, Vecinos Honduras and APDC from Burkina Faso have recently sent well-wishes for a prosperous new year and expressed thanks for the support they have received from World Neighbours Canada and Global Affairs Canada. The directors of World Neighbours Canada pass on those wishes and gratitude to all our supporters. We are hoping for peaceful conditions throughout the coming year in all the areas where we are working with people to alleviate poverty. Here are the messages from our partners.


This plantain harvest will help feed the family.

¡Que las fiestas de navidad sean propicias para fortalecer nuestro compromiso por un mundo mejor e iniciar el 2017 con renovadas energías y esperanzas!

~ miembros directivos, personal técnico y administrativo de Vecinos Honduras


gray2026“Nous adressons des voeux de santé, de progrès, de paix et de succès à WNCanada et au Gouvernement Canadien à travers votre Institution. Toute notre vive gratitude à l’égard de vos multiples efforts pour nous soutenir, s’exprime également à travers ces voeux.”

~ Charles Tankoano et toute l’équipe de APDC, ainsi que les communautés de Fada