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Special school is a safe space for girls escaping gender violence

POSTED August 11, 2021

Special school is a safe space for girls escaping gender violence

Abibou shares how Children Believe helped her find new opportunities and a more fulfilling life in Burkina Faso

By Patrice Zongo, communications manager, Burkina Faso

Girls sit with nun

In a remote village in Burkina Faso, a nondescript building is a haven for 96 girls and young women who have escaped gender violence. Here they are safe from early, forced marriage and other dangers. Abibou, the youngest among them, discovered a new life thanks to the Children Believe-supported boarding school and training centre.

“My uncle insisted I marry one of his friends who already had six wives and many children,” the young teen told me. “I would prefer to die than to live that way.”

Abibou’s fear of forced marriage was exacerbated by what she had witnessed. In her home village, she often saw her cousin beating his wife and children. She watched her older sister forced into marriage by her uncle. It was traumatic.

“She is living with her husband but is not happy,” Abibou says. “I didn’t want to be like her.”

Abibou’s sister attempted suicide by swallowing pills. She survived but remains trapped in her marriage. For Abibou, a brother who had moved to another town for work intervened when he learned of her situation.

Girl hold her bicycle

“He threatened my uncle that the police would be called if he forced me into marriage,” Abibou explains.

When her uncle would not relent, her brother brought her to the boarding school and training centre. The learning centre was created in 1951 and is run by five nuns who care for and train the girls.

Children Believe, with help from a European Union grant, is helping fund the learning centre so girls can get an education, study to cook, care for a home and acquire trades such as sewing, knitting, soap-making and hairdressing.

The Children Believe project provides food, hygiene kits, healthcare and occasional security in the centre when girls need protection.

For now, Abibou is preparing to start training in sewing and to continue her education in class. Through generous donors, Abibou also received a new bicycle to give her and other girls at the centre a form of transportation. Her future looks bright.

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):

Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of 12 child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in more than 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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