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Seeding women's empowerment
by Kerstin Gossé

Therese Sankara (right) is one of many women who have managed to increase her income due to the advice of national volunteer Andréa Ramde (left). (K. Gossé/UNV)Therese Sankara (right) is one of many women who have managed to increase her income due to the advice of national volunteer Andréa Ramde (left). (K. Gossé/UNV) Volunteer Andréa Ramde (left) works for a female association in the village of La Toden. (K. Gossé/UNV)Volunteer Andréa Ramde (left) works for a female association in the village of La Toden. (K. Gossé/UNV)
04 March 2009

La Toden, Burkina Faso: Women's associations in Burkina Faso are benefitting from a UNV-supported national volunteer programme. One microcredit project has helped a group of rural women double their incomes.

The new National Volunteer Programme (PNVB - Programme National de Volontariat au Burkina) encourages skilled young people to contribute to the development of their country. Financed by UNV, UNDP and the Government of Burkina Faso, the initial phase involves 40 volunteers.
 
UNV volunteer Maïmounata Ouedraogo is the project leader in one of the pilot regions, which received its first nine volunteers in November 2008. “The benefits of volunteerism are really twofold," she says. "The needs in this country are immense in all sectors of society and so many young, skilled people lack work experience.”

One of them is 29-year-old Andréa Ramde. She works for a female association in the village of La Toden, 130 kilometres north of Ouagadougou, where a great number of women have received access to microcredit to improve their incomes.

“Almost all women here are illiterate and they have no habit of calculating costs and benefits," says Ms. Ramde.  "My job is to ensure that women who get access to microcredit have the knowledge to manage their capital to improve the incomes and livelihood for their families.”

She regularly visits 13 female groups situated in a roadless semi-desert area to follow up on their income generating activities. Some have managed to buy a stock of cattle; others produce and sell peanut cookies or beer at the local market.

“We do group exercises, learning how to measure quantities and calculate the ingredients they need to buy to have a certain income. Now the women know how much the actual revenue is by market day, and they can calculate their income by month and by year. It helps them economize and set aside money for investing in their enterprises,” Andréa Ramde explains.

Therese Sankara is one of many women who have managed to increase her income. She produces a local millet beer, 'dolo'. The microcredit of 50,000 FCFA (US$ 96) has permitted her to buy and stock a large quantity of millet just after the harvest when the price was several times lower than the rest of year.  Now she can produce much more beer to a lower cost.

“Before I earned 750 FCFA in a day. Now I can even reach 2,000 (US$ 3.80). It helps me take care of my children’s health and schooling,” she says.

Andréa Ramde will work with the women for a year and will help out in other ways to improve their incomes.  “Ingredients like cooking oil are bought from vendors from Ouagadougou who dictate the prices. The women need to learn how to negotiate and collectively refuse overpricing," she says.
UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)