Secure dignity for marginalized populations in Burkina Faso Published in 2017 LUCIEN KABORÉ – Burkina Faso This story is part of the series We are human rights changemakers to celebrate Equitas’ 50th anniversary. All through 2017, we invite you to discover stories of 50 inspiring human rights changemakers. These are but a few of the hundreds who have changed lives around the world through human rights education with Equitas’ support. Burkina Faso literally means “land of men of integrity”. Lucien lives up to this maxim every day through his involvement in his country. People often say that Lucien has a “positive magic” because of his charisma, his joy of life and his resilience in the face of extreme poverty in Burkina Faso. “Poverty is a phenomenon that really degrades the human being. In this situation, human dignity is compromised: you can’t go to health centers, you can’t have three meals a day, and your children no longer attend school. Poverty is real in Burkina Faso and we must find ways to support these populations. “ For Lucien, the fight against poverty among marginalized populations in Burkina Faso is very important, especially for to women and young people. And Lucien sought change through concrete actions. In 1997, he drilled his first well in a village whose only access to water was 15 km away. He has also contributed to the construction of two dams, which have generated employment for more than 120 people, and he has founded several primary, secondary and technical schools, among many other achievements. A means for change Today, Lucien lives in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, where he serves as permanent Secretary of Agir Plus, an organization that works in education, food, health and local governance. His actions began in one province and now reach to more than six. His long-term goal is to be able to work through the entire country. A real instigator of change, Lucien’s accomplishments reflect a desire to restore dignity to marginalized populations in Burkina Faso. There are, however, many difficulties, especially for women who are the main victims of poverty. “We are transforming our difficulties into challenges to solve”, says Lucien. This is why Lucien pursues activities that can break the cycle of poverty, including a microcredit program that he has established for women to enter the labour market and escape poverty. When asked about his greatest achievement, Lucien mentions how he is happy to see not only that the women who participated in his microcredit program were able to enter the labour market, but also that they now play a much more active role in society, including in policy. Some of them have also become municipal councillors or have been elected as mayors of their villages. In 2007, Lucien participated in the Equitas International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP) in Montreal, which enabled him to adopt an approach based on human rights education rather than solely in providing services. Upon his return, he created the Equitas Network in Burkina Faso, which he presides over today and where various human rights training courses are offered. Thanks to this network, Lucien has, among other things, been able to train municipal councillors on local governance, planning and financing. Through these trainings, consultants were able to find new partners and therefore direct more financial resources for projects with a social impact. He gave the example of a community in Burkina Faso which, by training more than 60 municipal councillors, was then able to receive funding from three French regions. These funds were used, among other things, to provide drinking water for the community’s residents, to install fire hydrants in all parts of the city, and to give women the equipment to collect garbage. Because of Lucien’s training programs, several communities have also become aware of their land rights and turned to the local authorities to denounce the mining companies on their territory, which cause significant damage to the environment and public health. In 2013, the Equitas Network in Burkina Faso initiated a collective mobilisation to fight the exclusion of women on allegations of witchcraft in the Kourwéogo province and the Boussé region. The mobilisation had three stages: first, a march in Boussé that gathered more than 400 participants including women’s organisations, young workers, and religious and traditional leaders; second, testimonies of victims and their families; and third, a theatrical forum attended by 800 people. Lucien is aware that there is still much to do, especially for children who are victims of torture, FGM and disappearance. For him, change is sustainable only through human rights education. “We need courage to denounce these injustices. And how do we get the courage to denounce it? It is through human rights education”. LUCIEN KABORÉ – Burkina Faso Permanent Secretary of the Agir Plus and President of the Equitas Network – Burkina Faso Participant in the Equitas International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP), 2007 Story written by Alex Chartrand, intern writer, Equitas Equitas’ International Human Rights Training Program is undertaken in part with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Did you like this story? Give us your support! Even the smallest donation contributes to big impact in Canada and around the world.