POSTED May 16, 2023
Knitting her life back together
Sohaibata’s life changed in an instant when violent conflict suddenly arrived at her doorstep and her family was forced to flee. She is now rebuilding her life in a new place far from home with support from Children Believe.
By Karen Homer, Children Believe Canada
The “Girls-7” Series: Sohaibata in Burkina Faso
Seven girls overcoming discrimination, deprivation and even danger, in seven different places. They share a common courage: to dream fearlessly in the face of adversity. They are examples of the importance of education, which offers a lifeline to safety today and the hope for a better future tomorrow, for both them and their community. This month in response to the G7 summit, Children Believe is calling on global leaders to create greater educational access for girls as a key solution to many major global challenges, not a problem to be fixed.
“The shooting started in my village at about 11:00 a.m.,” says Sohaibata, her expression stoic. “We ran into the house, grabbed some clothes and our cooking pots, and fled. I have a big family of about 15 people. We all escaped, except my uncle who stayed behind. People in a nearby village took us in, but soon the men came hunting for them, too. My family ran from village to village for almost a year until we ended up here in Kaya.”
Sadly, Sohaibata’s story is not unique. Of the 1.9 million people displaced in Burkina Faso, more than 61 per cent are children. According to Children Believe research, one out of every two children in the six most-affected regions have experienced or witnessed violence. Of these children, 82 per cent are girls.
Children like Sohaibata need psychosocial care and support, educational and recreational activities, and protection services in order to begin recovering from the traumatic experiences they have been through. Children Believe’s network of 55 child-friendly spaces are often the only safe haven for these children where children can play, learn and enjoy a sense of routine and stability to support their long-term well-being. To date, in partnership with UNICEF, 66,351 displaced children in have received psychosocial support in violence-affected regions in the country.
Sohaibata has discovered the joy of knitting at one of Children Believe’s child-friendly spaces. While she hasn’t been able to go to school yet, she hopes to turn her new skill into a money-making opportunity.
In the centres, adolescents learn a number of vocational skills, such as sewing and carpentry, that are therapeutic as well as a means of generating income. “I started coming to the centre for something to do. The teacher taught me and the other girls how to knit,” says Sohaibata, holding up her finished yellow scarf with a satisfied smile. “Now I can make hats, scarves and shawls. I think I can sell them back in my village. I hope I can go home soon.”
“Life in my village was beautiful,” recalls Sohaibata, her eyes downcast, focused on the yellow ball of yarn in her lap. “My family raised animals and we grew our food. My father was a farmer and I used to walk in the hills with him. One day, when we can go back, I want to keep knitting and start a small business selling things.”
The critical need for education
The latest research shows that if all the world’s children received 12 years of education, their combined lifetime earnings would double to $30 trillion USD globally. Children like Sohaibata have the strength and resiliency to overcome the darkest challenges in order to dream fearlessly and build a new future. Children Believe is part of a global movement asking for Canadian and global support at the G7 summit to help 40 million more girls gain access to education.