Burkina Faso : THE LADY MECHANICS OF OUAGADOUGOU

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Raising awareness of the rights of women exercising non-traditional professions Joséphine Yameogo has been fighting for her rights her entire life. At the age of one month, she was promised in marriage to a man over 40 years her senior. At the age of 17, she was taken to meet her 60 year-old future husband. She refused to marry him and was forced to flee, banished by her family. With extremely limited resources, support and opportunities, she fought to make her way in life. With the help of her brother – and the opposition of her family and of society – Joséphine defied the odds and all the rules, and not only trained as a mechanic, but began working to change attitudes about women in non-traditional professions and to promote their access to these professions. One of Equitas’ partners saw the potential in Joséphine and recommended her for Equitas’ regional training session for community trainers. While Joséphine was very keen to attend, it was not an obvious match.  A mechanic at a human rights training program?   Our partner insisted…and we took a chance. During the training session, Joséphine increased her knowledge of human rights theories and models.   But more importantly, by interacting with and learning from other human rights workers from West Africa working on similar issues, she further developed her already existing ability to come up with creative and practical solutions to the issues she and other women in her community were facing. Inspired by the training, Joséphine founded the Association of Lady Mechanics of Faso (A.M.F.) where she works with women from very poor areas of Ouagadougou, often with limited schooling, to promote their access to non-traditional professions.  She began organising training sessions to raise women’s awareness of their rights, including the right to gender equality and to non-discrimination, so that they could better claim their right to be a learn a trade. These women have in turn created other associations of women in industrial painting and electricity. As Joséphine says: “If these women know their rights, they will fight to succeed.” In December 2011, Josephine opened a collective garage to train young women to become mechanics. She has been joined by other women trained in industrial painting and metalwork. The training activities on human rights initiated by AMF enabled women to increase their self-esteem and apply the right to exercise a non-traditional profession. They now feel fulfilled in their profession of choice, in their capacity to exercise their rights within society, and to take control of their lives. Their increased contribution to the family income has led to an increase in decision-making power within their family and community. These associations are calling into question the sexual division of labour in Burkina Faso. Most importantly, the increased independence of these women is allowing them to escape the cycle of poverty. Josephine adds: “This is the impact of Equitas’ training session…We tradeswomen can change the world!” Read Josephine’s full story here

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