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!

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

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.