Laafi Tenga,10 August 2023 – Dressed a yellow T-shirt and a blue scarf, Saouda Kinda, as usual, walks the streets of the city to join a new meeting where she will defend the interests of her community women. This brave lady of immeasurable leadership and community pharmacy keeper is the coordinator of the Laafi Tenga women.

Sharing and dialogue are an art for Saouda. She does it brilliantly, to better understand the women’s concerns and take their case to the authorities. “The coordination of the Laafi Tenga women was born out of a desire to work together to better respond to the challenges facing women and communities. So, as a leader, it’s legitimate for me to listen and pass on the women’s message”, she says.

This coordination group is made up of 26 cooperatives, each comprising 40 women engaged in income-generating activities such as the processing of food-processing products. Through this grouping, women also benefit from training courses that enable them to build their capacities in key areas.

In Laafi Tenga, as in many other places in Burkina Faso, women are social regulators and make a huge contribution to boosting the local economy. They set an example and act on a daily basis in support of community development. Inspired by the example of Princess Yennenga, they have historically adopted an active approach. They promote community engagement and strive to create a harmonious living environment. That’s why they need to be represented and have their voices heard.

“The women in our coordination are role models. Most of them have income-generating activities that help to boost the local economy. They create opportunities and show young people that they can achieve success in Laafi Tenga”, says Saouda.

However, the people of Laafi Tenga face several difficulties that affect their daily lives. These include the overall security situation and movement of people and goods in this locality close to the border with Mali.

Saouda answering questions from IOM staff during an interview in the border township.

On the one hand, internal conflict and lack of road infrastructure (among other reasons) undermine the daily lives of the inhabitants of Laafi Tenga, especially women. Saouda deplores the fact that women are exposed to safety risks: “The poor road network has led to some women getting drowned on their way to the market during the rainy season.” In her opinion, the area needs to be pacified so that the communities can fulfil their lives and have prospects for success.

On the other hand, it is necessary to improve the security situation along the border with Mali. This helps to strengthen the social ties between border populations of both countries. Saouda says: “Crossing the border is often very difficult and risky. But we have no choice as we have relatives in Mali who we need to visit.” In addition to cohesion within the community itself, it is vital to continue strengthening ties with people on the other side of the border.

Saouda is therefore delighted that the local authorities have set up a communal security coordination unit in Laafi Tenga with the support of the International Organization for Migration’s Integrated Border Management programme. In her view, this will help to create a stable security environment that is conducive to dialogue and community engagement.

“Because of fear and a lack of information, we didn’t have much contact with the local authorities. However, this initiative provides us with a very important framework for dialogue that will be able to address our concerns, and more specifically those of the members of the Laafi Tenga women’s coordination group.”

Wide-eyed and deep in thought, Saouda is delighted with the contribution she has made to improving the well-being of women in her community. “I’m very proud of the efforts I’ve been making since 2015,

and I’m delighted with the unwavering commitment of my fellow members to ensuring the perfect establishment of the women’s coordination of which I am president. In the same vein, our cooperatives have obtained funding from the ‘Fonds d’Appui aux Activités Rémunératrices des Femmes du Burkina Faso’. This is a great source of satisfaction.”

From now on, her aim is to see her children and grandchildren live in a safe place where they can enjoy a bright future. She confides: “I really want the communities, and especially our daughters, to feel safe. I have faith in the future and I know that, together, we will find solutions that will help build an environment in which everyone can fulfil their potential.”

Committed to promoting social cohesion as she was from the very beginning, Saouda intends to continue mobilizing women of the commune and seeking their opinions, which she believes will help her find appropriate solutions.

** To protect the identity of the person whose story is related here, we have assigned her a pseudonym. The name of the town has also been changed. **

This story was written by Abdoulaye Mamadou Soukouna, Communications Consultant at IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa.

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
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