Back to Africa: A day in the life of a Burkinabe teenage girl

ONE member and Peace Corps volunteer Brandon Green will be sharing his experiences in Burkina Faso with ONE Blog readers in the series, “Back to Africa” over the next few months. We look forward to hearing all his adventures!

Nadine is 14 years old and in the 7th grade. She wakes up at 4 a.m. every day to sweep the courtyard and house before her father wakes. Then she walks to the pump to fetch water for the entire family for the day. She then prepares breakfast, most likely a type of porridge made from millet. The younger children eat first and if there is any left, Nadine might get a little. She readies the children for their day at school or in the fields. After quickly washing up, she bikes the 20-minute ride to get to school. She usually arrives just in time.

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Nadine doing chores with her sister. Photo credit: Brandon Green.
At lunch, Nadine bikes home and immediately begins cooking with her sisters, while her brothers sit and review their lessons or play soccer. Again, she serves herself last, and once finished, washes the dishes. Then she bikes to the market and helps her mother sell peanuts, after which she bikes back to school. Once school is out, she bikes back home, and she and her sisters start preparing dinner for the family as well as washing the family’s clothes.

After everyone has eaten, she cleans the dishes and finishes the laundry. By this time, the sun has set. Nadine’s family doesn’t have electricity. So she pulls out a flashlight, which has batteries that last for an hour, and attempts to quickly do her homework and study. She falls asleep and wakes up a few hours later to start the whole cycle all over again.

Nadine’s story is typical to most Burkinabe girls. Add to it the violence and sexual harassment they face in schools and you can understand why many aren’t able to succeed in their education, which is an incredibly important factor in the development of a country. In partnership with educators and parents’ associations, I am trying to convince parents to share household chores between boys and girls equally.

In January, Peace Corps Burkina Faso will be having a week-long “Doorways” training seminar. The “Doorways” training program was designed by the USAID-funded Safe Schools Program to enable teachers, community members and students to prevent and respond to school related gender-based violence. These are just a couple ways that Peace Corps volunteers like me are fighting the challenges that girls face here in Burkina Faso on a daily basis. With 2012 finally upon us, there is hope in this new year for Nadine and all the girls just like her.

You can find out more about “Doorways” here.