And She Went Away…

alexandrine

— By Alexandrine from Burkina Faso

It was one April evening, in two days I was going to celebrate my twentieth birthday. Night had barely fallen on my peaceful town. Sitting in the courtyard of the house, just in front of the door to my room, I was looking at the sky. A beautiful starry sky, it looked like the stars were celebrating. Without really knowing why, my thoughts had gone astray to the theme of death. I thought it was a beautiful night to die. The next moment I felt guilty, as if I had just committed a murder in thought. I quickly chased these black ideas and turned back to my little sister. She sat in front of me in an armchair leaning against the wall. Her head slightly inclined to the side, she was quiet. From the height of her 14 years, she was beautiful, my sister. I was five when she was born. I remember as if it was yesterday. Dad brought us – my brothers and I – and told us that Mom was going to come back from hospital with a little sister. I did not understand much of it. I just knew I was happy to see this sister. At the ceremony of the eighth day, the ceremony in which the baby goes out publicly, I asked my mother, “By the way, how is she called, the little sister?” “Solange,” answered my mother. Solange – this name will forever be etched in my head and in my heart…

I was watching her frail body and her peaceful face, empty of emotions. This face once so cheerful. She was the joy of life of the family, sparkling and inquisitive. Her contagious laughter resounded throughout the house. The youngest, as she was called, was the favorite of all and enjoyed all the attention. I was jealous sometimes.

Now she is only the shadow of herself. A disease whose name is unknown has taken possession of her body, and she is perishing day by day. After days spent in the hospital without much satisfaction, we returned home. Day and night I was with her. I had asked permission from the university to spend as much time as possible with her.
That night I was observing her without knowing what to say to ease her pain. Despite her apparent suffering, she never complained. She suffered in silence and when she could, she even offered us her childish smile.
That night I was observing her and unintentionally, I began to think of all the moments of happiness we spent together. Our complicity, the little disputes, the laughter, the little tricks we played to our two brothers. A battle of girls against boys…

That day, all day long, she did not want to eat. She rejected everything I brought her. Meals, medicines, everything. In the evening, to give her a little air, I helped her to sit in that chair and I sat in front of her. I was observing her when suddenly her head bowed abruptly. I rose hastily from my chair and shook her. I shouted her name several times without answers. The continuation of the events is only fog in my head. I saw my father in tears, covering the little body with a sheet, and he lifted her from the armchair to the room.

Solange was gone. Forever. It was a beautiful night to die!

What Unfairness Has Fate Brought?

— By Editoro from Nigeria

It was not the rays of the sun that seeped through to the road, nor was it the dog barking with so much ferocity, the stench from the heaps of abandoned refuse has given them an enduring purpose: to become the downtrodden and the wretched in the society.

They neither smiled nor frowned, perhaps they were content, but their eyes were begging pleas. Clinging to their arms were children, that have already become a mockery to the perfect deity anyone worships. Buzzing from giant flies was more of an accompanying tune, rather than a discomfort.

I walked faster, with haste, head down in weariness. Knowing I could have become one of them with a mischance in the game of genes sent shivers down my spine.

The aroma of richly cooked food hit my nose, it was from an adjoining fence. Before my eyes were the glitz, the glamour, the ostentatious nature of wealth. Cars of varying sizes and colours were laid one after another spectacularly, like rainbows. Bulky cheeks, potbellies, and proud disposition characterised their features. These were the elites, the ones whom fate had been ‘partial’ to. A mother with richly designed headgear and shoes that made her tiptoe, held her son who was suckling his lollipop. If only he understood what was happening to his peers few metres away.

I scuttled along, my feet dragging on. My eyes watered, not at the deep social divide that has plagued most third world countries, nor what unfairness fate has brought, but the ever-present lacking of the poor.

That experience gave me a powerful sense of responsibility and purpose, and it became my compass in the midst of my travail.

The Chariots of Ouagadougou

alexandrine

— By Alexandrine from Burkina Faso

Ouaga*, it is noon. The sun reigns supreme over the capital of ‘Men of Integrity’*. On Basssawarga Avenue, the traffic jam is at its peak. Apart from the impressive ocher color that dresses this city, it is the ballet of countless motorcycles that attracts attention. Ouagadougou is full of motorcycles. They are everywhere and for all. Small, young, women with babies on their backs, or with a tray of merchandise balanced on their heads, and old people…each has its own two-wheeled craft. You don’t need a driver’s license, you just have to learn how to start it, how to stay stable, and how to sneak. It’s enough! In Ouaga, everyone has his own “chariot”. Asian motorcycle sales companies have felt the deal.

Living without a “chariot” is a misery

Experience with motorcycles when arriving for the first time in Ouagadougou differs from one person to another. When I arrived in the country of Thomas Sankara, father of the Burkinabe revolution, I swore to never venture on this machine that everyone leads through the arteries of the capital without protection (helmets are annoying for the Burkinabé). I quickly changed my mind. Bicycle races, not for fun or exercise, but because I had no choice. Difficulties finding a taxi and a good one (some are only a set of old spare parts that threaten to yield in every movement, worse, most of them are fueled by gas bottles), and the cost of journeys quickly dissuaded me…”Ouaga without a chariot is galley,” said the artist.

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The Ouagalais* road code.

After a few apprenticeship sessions that took place without fractures, but not without scratches, I bought my “chariot”. A beautiful black motorcycle. I was proud of it. The hardest obstacle remained to face was traffic, and in Ouagadougou, traffic doesn’t forgive.
“In Ouagadougou, we don’t drive, we avoid each other!” This statement by a colleague illustrates quite well the situation. The Ouagalais have thier own road code, and you must know it to avoid insults, breaks, and serious accidents, which are common things. No one cares about flashers, their importance is unknown. I am hardly exaggerating. To turn left or right, simply swing the arm or foot in the desired direction, or turn the head to check if the road is clear. These gestures are large enough to alert the other drivers that we want to turn.

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A multi-functional machine

Motorcycles are used to drive, but not only. Effective to zigzag between cars and avoid clogs, motorcycles also help to load live or dead beasts, whole or skinned, which will serve many barbecue places around the capital. Chariots of Ouagadougou are also “places of discussion”. You can see two or three motorcycles in traffic, their drivers gayly unscrewing while driving. Better than a head to head! Other functions, these two-wheeled vehicles are very useful for dredging. Yes, it is not for nothing that burkinabé refused to wear a helmet. It is not uncommon to see in streets of Ouagadougou very pretty girls in miniskirts and heels, hair in the wind, braving the dust with huge black glasses. Impressive thing! For me, it is already hard enough to handle speed and the foot brake with my ballerina flats, but do it with shoes with heels, girls of Ouagadougou have incredible talents! And the mini-skirts – a friend showed me the trick to drive with these skirts : “You have to raise your leg slightly and climb by the space between the seat and the handlebars, sit and tighten your thighs so as not to reveal between your legs”. 
Me, in good Togolese, accustomed to motorcycles, taxi Lomé, I always go out in jeans and I climb on my bike by making a big gap above the seat…

Let’s go back to the dredge. I was saying that a girl on a motorcycle, a hand on the clutch and the other using a phone, such a beautiful show can’t go unnoticed. The “candidate” has no choice but to follow the beautiful girl with his motorcycle and try to attract her attention. In spite of my helmet, which never leaves me when driving, I paid the price of this mode of seduction.

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Motorcycles also play a large role in wedding ceremonies. After most ceremonies, cousins and neighbors of the bride and groom fill the streets of the capital with their processions by honking and making figures with their motorcycles to mark the end of celibacy of the couple of the day.

Finally, no matter what we say, motorcycles of Ouagadougou make the charm and the particularity of that city of West Africa, Ouaga-sweet-taste!

– Ouagadougou or Ouaga is the capital of Burkina Faso. 
– Ouagalais are residents of Ouagadougou.
– ‘Men of Integrity’ is the meaning of Burkina Faso in the mother languages. 
– Burkina = Integrity in Moore ; Faso= Country in Dioula

My Journey to Begin Charity Work

— By Dorcas from Ghana

While growing up, I had the passion and determination to help the less privileged in the society. This passion gradually grew to become a dream where I had to achieve it even while in school. I had the passion and the interest to provide care and support to people especially to less privileged children and also to make impact in their lives. The challenges and the struggles that I went through, while embarking on a charity work as a journalist makes it more memorable and worth sharing with people.

Knowing very well that there would be no support from anywhere in terms of finances, I started making some little savings from my personal money that my parent gives to me while in school. While doing the savings, I had short discussions with friends to also support me with some old clothes and shoes or items and this is where my dream of providing care and support to orphans started. While in school, I established this organisation called NABA Foundation which had its main aim or mission to provide care and support to orphans, less privileged children as well as widows and promote health and education in rural communities. My vision was also to become the well-known non –governmental organisation in Africa and beyond that stands out to sorely provide Care and Support, Education and promote Health as well as researching to know the needs of Africans especially those in the rural communities.

After establishing, I began fulfilling the first core area that I have chosen that is providing care and support. I invited few friends and used the money I had to purchase some items that we donated to some families who were in deep poverty and residing in a deprived house in the surrounds of Accra. While conducting the donations, I observed that most people are in deep hardship which means they do not have enough financial support to cater for their family and some have travelled from their respective rural communities to the capital city of Ghana, Accra to search for jobs and end up on the street when they do not get any job.

This observation urged me to do more donations to those on the street and people who need either financial support or clothes or food to eat. The need came for me to contact several colleagues to set up a team in this foundation that will mobilize resources to be used for this donation and also support the research. The team was able to raise some funds among ourselves to make other bigger donations at Osu Children’s Home and conducted free health talk and donation at another orphanage in Dodowa, all in Ghana among others. We have been able to also register the foundation and currently have worked extra hard to attract the interest of some bigger musicians and celebrities both in USA and in Ghana to serve as ambassadors to promote our course including Education, health and care and support.

I have a personal principle that states that “There is no situation or action in life that is called challenge. So far as that situation urges you to think, re-think and provide a solution it, then it is no more a challenge but rather an exam”. I believe it is only during examination day that one has to think and re-thing to ensure the answer given is the best and will provide the best grade and so it applies to this principle. I have worked with this principle that I set up for myself for a long time and it has helped me both in academics and life goals. I had some many hard times while starting up this non-governmental organisation alone. Even though the conversations I had with few friends before starting were all emphasising on getting a huge amount of money before I can provide care or donate to the less privileged in the society especially while being in school. But I ignored those comment and started using my little savings to purchase items and share to people living on the street and to those who are in need.

Indeed, I was able to think and re-think to put certain strategies in place to overcome all those difficult times when setting up this organisation to provide support to less privileged children in the community. In view of my great leadership skills and setting up this organisation even while in school with no huge money, I received the Leadership and Excellence award sponsored by Databank Foundation in Ghana and was also announced the Overall Best Student in Journalism in 2014 at the African University College of Communications (AUCC). After the hardship, the foundation had been duly registered in Ghana as NABA LIFE FOUNDATION.

The Teacher Doesn’t Like my Child

 

francis

— By Francis from Sierra Leone

If God wanted you to be rich, you would be.

Before I start, let me say that I believe some things are meant to be, and many things have no explanation. But very few things. From childhood, our society has taken away personal responsibility from its citizens. As a result, we have learned the blame game. It is never our fault. Something or somebody caused it. We do not teach honour here.

If a child does not study, plays, and fails, the parent must find a way to rationalize it: “The teacher does not like my child,” or, “It is the stepmom,” or, “If his father had bought textbooks, the result would have been different.” We delight in delusion and never get honest appraisals. “My boss does not like me because I am from the north” – on and on it goes. Religious practitioners here assist in reinforcing the message. There is a spirit of adultery, there is a spirit of failure, there is a spirit of laziness. The only spirits missing in the line-up are those of stupidity and gullibility.

By reinforcing external causative powers, we rob the society of self-accountability. My local council is trying, but it is being sabotaged by the central government. That’s how we play it here. Everything here is government. Even government blames government. No one is government. Citizen accountability is zero. Citizen participation is nil. People are willing to blame the central government for things their local governments should do. Every day, many accept that sin is why we are backward. There is a divine prosperity present. Absent in village churches, but conveniently present in mega churches with large numbers of congregations that are told how tithes and offerings are triggers to wealth. Churches in my village chiefdom are yet to understand that.

But that is our society. We have all abdicated responsibility. It’s the Devil. It’s witchcraft. It’s destiny. Is this a society that wants change?

Why FGM is still Common Practice in my Country

alexandrine

— By Alexandrine from Burkina Faso

Early in December 2016, UNFPA organized a press tour in the north central region of Burkina Faso, to observe compliance with measures prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM). The report is bitter.

Despite the multitude of information and awareness campaigns, and the adoption of the law prohibiting female genital mutilation in Burkina Faso, the practice still persists. It is estimated that more than 70% of women are circumcised in Burkina Faso. The excision rate for women between the ages of 15 and 49 is 76% and 13% for girls between 0 and 14 years. According to a report by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, female circumcision affects almost all ethnic groups in Burkina Faso throughout the country.

During our tour, in one of the public schools we visited, we met Rokiatou, a 10-year-old girl with a smile on her lips and sad eyes. She experienced the sad and harsh reality of excision. Rokiatou was excised at the age of 6 years. It was her grandmother who accompanied her to the matron. Rokiatou was lucky because she did not have any complications, but what does the life of woman, bride and young mother reserve to her?

Excision involves serious physical and psychological consequences for women. It is very painful because it is done without anesthesia. Moreover, it is made in precarious hygienic conditions, which promote infections and the proliferation of the transmission of the AIDS virus.

Like this girl, there are many women and girl victims of female genital mutilation in the Kaya region and throughout Burkina Faso.

 A midwife told us that several girls are admitted weekly to the health center due to aggravated cases of excisions.

 “This week we received a six-year-old girl, a type two excision. For the second also, excision of type two with a large beacon, she will need a repair.”

There are three types of excision, two of them are frequent in Burkina Faso. This is the removal of all or part of the clitoris and removal of the clitoris plus the labia minora.

The complicit silence of parents

The actors of the practice of excision cite several reasons, including tradition and religion. These arguments are based on popular beliefs such as:

– The removal of the clitoris makes it possible to make a sexual differentiation. The girl must renounce to her potential rod, the clitoris, to become “a real woman”.

– From a certain age the little girls have itching in the area due to the presence of worms in the clitoris. So we have to extract the clitoris.

– Female not excised = Clears an odor due to the presence of the clitoris.

– At the time of delivery, if the head of the newborn touches the clitoris, it follows the death of the latter. It is therefore necessary for the survival of the newborn.

– The circumcised girl will remain faithful to her future husband.

Since 1995, article 380 of the Penal Code of Burkina Faso punishable by imprisonment of six to three years and a fine of 150 000 to 900 000 F CFA, anyone who attacks the integrity of the genital organ of the woman.

Despite the existence of this law and the number 80 00 11 12 to denounce the cases of excision in Burkina Faso, few people are still quick to do so, especially when it involves their relatives, for fear of tearing the family fabric. Many girls are thus circumcised in the knowledge and appreciation of the parents who, even if they are aware of the harmful consequences, prefer to remain silent rather than surrender the culprits and other accomplices to the police and / or judicial authorities.

Studies have reported 31 cases of excision, including 5 deaths in 2015.

What to do ?

Several international organizations have condemned FGM as a violation of human rights, the rights of the child, and the right to health and physical integrity. Burkina Faso, by joining these various conventions, has made fighting female circumcision one of its priorities. There is hope, however, of abandoning the practice of FGM in Burkina Faso.

The need especially is to dare to talk about sexuality to teenagers, because the presence of the clitoris has nothing to do with sexual debauchery.

My Good Old Days

lealimo

— By Lealimo from Lesotho

Growing up in the village of Semphetenyane has always been magical to me, those years even today still colour my mind with happiness.

Semphetenyane is a small village in the outskirts of Maseru city in Lesotho, surrounded by rivers, valleys, meadows, and beautiful mountains. During rainy season one can see the rainbow touch the mountains. 
I have since lived with my father in his early years. He was a very strong hard working man. In his early forties, he always put on his khaki trousers and matching shirts made of very strong material. To complement his attire, he usually put on his black boots and big straw hat to protect himself from the sun while working in the fields. I always thought he looked like an 18th-century kind of man and always wondered why he loved his khaki clothing so much. We had lots of cattle, sheep, and chickens in our yard.

Our source of income was mainly on sheep rearing, selling eggs, and milk. My father had so many rules, but there were two that were most important among them, that he wanted me to abide and live by. I was not allowed to arrive home after the sunset, and most importantly, to never tell a lie. Should I break any of the rules, I knew that he would make me sweep the whole big yard that was dirtied by animals. Even though I only had two rules to follow, to me as a child following only those two rules felt like he was challenging me – it was almost like saying I should fill the jars with honey and not lick my fingers. Though I always knew what my punishment would be should I break any of the rules, to me it felt like it was worth it after all the fun I would have with my friends.

When I arrived late he would say, “Leah, where is the sun? Come inside the house when you can show me the sun.” Then he would make me draw a picture of the sun. I would sit by the door sulking and sad, drawing. Eventually he would let me in, but I would still pay for it.


I remember one Friday afternoon when I was about 16-years-old and on my way back from school, my three friends and I decided to go for a swim in the river. We swam and played until the sunset. On our way back, I told my friends about my father’s rules.

They laughed at me and somehow it made me a bit uneasy, because I wondered if their parents ever set any rules for them. They advised me to lie and say I had gone to see my grandmother in a nearby village, though I didn’t like the idea, I went ahead with it anyways. When I got home, my father was very furious, but before he could ask, I told him about my visit to grandma’s house. He was not so convinced, a bit reluctant to believe me, but he let it go.

I felt a relief seeing that he bought my story.


This became a habit for me to go to the river with my friends for a few Fridays after school, and then I would lie to him. One time, I was not aware that my grandmother was coming to visit us that day for the weekend. As usual, I lied to him, only to wake up in the morning to find my grandmother sitting at our coffee table making breakfast. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I started shaking with fear and shame, remembering what I had just told my father the previous night.

My father was disappointed and I could see it in his eyes. As punishment, he made me sweep our yard and our neighbour’s yard for the next 10 days, because I had lied to him. Even today, he still has pictures that he would make me draw each time I arrived home late.


All these memories built me to be the woman I am today. Though he doesn’t make me draw anymore, whenever I arrive home late, he still reminds me that if I wasn’t an adult, he would make me draw.