Survivors and heroines: women in the crisis in Burkina Faso

Authored by: Cendrine Labaume

Categories: Global Public Health
Sub-Categories: COVID-19, Human Development, Migration, National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
Country: Burkina Faso
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2020
Citation: Labaume, Cendrine. “Survivors and Heroines: Women in the Crisis in Burkina Faso.” Oxfam, May 2020.

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Executive Summary

Over 1 million women in Burkina Faso caught between conflict and COVID-19

More than a million women and girls in Burkina Faso are facing increased sexual violence, hunger and water shortage as a result of the coronavirus pandemic on top of the existing conflict, said Oxfam today.

In its report, Oxfam reveals that women and girls are exposed to unprecedented risks including daily harassment and aggression, especially in the fields and at water points. In addition to the traumas endured during attacks on their villages or when women were forced to flee their homes, there is also the stress of losing livelihoods, as well as the daily struggle of having to live in new and unfamiliar conditions. These are often incredibly challenging, and women told Oxfam that they lack privacy and are forced to depend on the little aid they receive. In the face of poverty, women are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, prostitution and recruitment into armed groups.

Currently, 2.2 million people in Burkina Faso are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Women, girls, and children make 84% of the over 848,000 people who were forced to flee conflict. Living in cramped shared tents and with little access to water, is a lethal condition for the spread of Covid-19. These women mostly need access to water, protection, food, and shelter. But sadly, the public services that continue to operate are overwhelmed, especially health centers and schools, depriving women and girls of access to essential public services.

Oxfam in Burkina Faso is raising 10 million euros in order to scale up its humanitarian response and help curb the spread of COVID-19. Oxfam aims to build or rehabilitate 107 water points, to support 287,000 people with hygiene kits and prevention awareness programmes, and to set up a specific protection programme for women and girls. Yet, barely one-fifth of the UN humanitarian response plan in Burkina Faso for 2020 is currently funded. Only 3% of the funds received cover water, hygiene and sanitation needs – the priority needs identified by women – and only 7% is dedicated to the protection response, which must be a priority for all actors.

Oxfam is also working with partners on projects to build community resilience and supporting community peace dialogue led by women and youth in peacebuilding. Oxfam’s report highlights the urgent need to promote women’s active participation in governance structures and peacebuilding.