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.
I’m told that writing is therapeutic and right now I am in need of therapy. This blog is to show you the good, the bad and the ugly of my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso and in these next few lines you will read about the ugly. We are sent into an unknown world full of cultural differences and language barriers. That’s why many of us who are animal lovers will adopt a pet.
In my case, I got a puppy and her name was Para. I was told that I should choose her because she was the lightest colored of the litter and I am white. She wasn’t a special breed, just a regular Burkinabe mutt, but I treated her like any American dog lover would. She had Burkinabe and American tendencies and everyone in my community knew that she was more of a child than a dog to me.
A few weeks ago, Para was attacked by another dog. Because she was less than three months old, she had yet to be vaccinated against rabies. Unfortunately, where I live, people do not vaccinate their dogs and there was a 70 percent chance she could be infected. She also had dislocated her hip and possibly broken her leg. She was unable to move and in an incredible amount of pain. In the US, I would have simply taken her to the vet and they would have fixed her right up. But here they neither have the means nor the know-how to do that. So, after serious deliberation, it was decided she should be put down.
The veterinarian contacted a man he knew and then arguably one of the most horrific things I have ever witnessed happened. Two men came to my house. One grabbed Para by the throat and strangled her to death while the other asked me if I wanted to sell her meat, have them simply throw her in the brush somewhere or bury her. I was shocked and appalled. I wanted to burst into tears at that very moment, however, in Burkinabe culture, men do not cry and I could not afford to lose the respect of my community.
When most of us think of gender equality, we think of women’s empowerment. But gender equality also applies to men. In many cultures around the world, including our own, men are seen as weak if they cry. I myself, as a child, was told by a loved one (who later in life apologized for it) that “big boys don’t cry”.
There is a cycle of socialization that begins from birth (i.e. boys in blue and girls in pink) that puts men and women in boxes. These boxes are what are keeping men and women from being completely equal. These boxes are key factors in keeping countries from developing. This cycle of socialization needs to be broken. It needs to be alright for a woman to own property, to hold a job and to play soccer. It needs to be alright for a man to take care of children, do household chores and, when in difficult times, it needs to be alright for a man to cry without anyone thinking any less of him.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, breaking down these gender barriers and helping people step out of the box is a large part of my job. Many of the programs that I am working on focus on gender equality. They expose the problem and help bring people to an understanding of what true equality is and how they can achieve this.
Programs such as Doorways, a USAID initiative that teaches prevention and care for victims of gender based violence in the schools. Another example is Camp G2LOW Burkina Faso (“Guys and Girls Leading Our World”), a summer camp for 7th and 8th graders which, among other subjects, teaches them the importance of gender equality. As a ONE member, bear in mind what you just read and apply to it your life. Then, go out and help change the views of others, in the US and around the world. Through your voice and your actions this vicious cycle can and will be broken, if and only if we all work together.
Make Brandon feel better and send him a nice email to firstname.lastname@example.org.