Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Bogandé Round 2
The brave market clean-up crew
My first long duration stay in Bogandé back in early july was extremely successful and packed with activities. My objectives of this stay were to better understand the Women's Association's work, support their efforts, and find out how I could offer assistance to them. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find a host family for this first stay, but instead was hosted by a French volunteer, Estelle, who has a 3 year placement working for NutriFaso. I say unfortunately but really it was quite exciting to live this type of experience as well. I was able to see how she had integrated into the community over the past year, help cook all the meals with her, and get a look into what it's like to be a long-term overseas volunteer.
Here's a picture of Estelle, her friend Rosalie, and I.
It was great to have my independence during this week. Since Christian wasn't there I wasn't dependent on his schedule, and was able to accomplish all of the tasks that I wanted to at my own pace (a lot faster than his). I also got to set up all the activities and meetings that I wanted to and felt like I was really in control.
In order to better understand the women's perspectives, the role of the Technical Committee in the project and how the project was viewed by the commune I decided to set up casual interviews with members of the Women's Association, the Technical Committee, employees of the Mayor's office, the man in charge of the market and various citizen's with and without garbage cans.
The first day I set up a meeting with Mr Yarga Ali, the President of the Technical Committee who is also in charge of the Sanitation Sector in the mayor's office. He gave me a better insight into the Technical Committee's role in the garbage disposal project. The role of this committee is to provide technical advise for the project. The committee supervises the activities of the association and offers any help they can in support, outreach, building of infrastructures, and mobilization of the public. When the association has any problems they refer to this committee rather than to Helvetas since the goal of the partnership between the commune and Helvetas is for the commune to be able to run projects autonomously. He is very impressed by the women's work and is a great support for them. He sees real progress in the project and is proud when he sees his kids throwing their garbage in the associations bins.
Later in the day I set up a meeting with the president of the Women's Association Mme Lankoandé Clarisse. What an amazing woman. She founded the association back in 1992 with the main goals of creating an avenue for collaboration between all of the women of the commune, fighting for the promotion of women's status in the commune and fighting against all discrimination against women. All in all she aspired to fight poverty by emancipating women and providing them with work and dignity in the commune.
Here is President Clarisse proudly standing by one of the public garbages that will be emptied that day
She explained to me the different challenges that the women face in their work with the garbage disposal project including lack of support from the merchants in the market, gloves used for clean up that are filled with holes, lack of financial support from the mayor's office (which they had promised to provide and even signed a contract on), among many others. Yet she says with pride that the project is coming along well and that the women are making great progress on the cleanliness of the commune. She says that she has faith that in the future the project will help get the women out of poverty by the fees of clean-up, and that the women will be prosperous.
She also gave me some more details on the association itself. The Association consists of 120 members and an executive board of 8 members. There are many different areas in which the association works including outreach promoting women's rights and fighting for the elimination of female circumcision, forced marriages, violence against women. They also work to educate the citizens of Bogandé about healthy reproduction, HIV AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, malaria and tuberculosis. On top of the garbage disposal project they also make local soap and they impregnate mosquito nets. What a daunting task to be taking all of this on. But the women are courageous and soldier on.
There are 18 women officially involved in the garbage disposal project but about 40 more help out unofficially. After our meeting she walked me to the treasurer of the association's house, Mme Lankoandé Germaine, to have an interview with her. She explained the different financial troubles that they have and the lack of funds that they have to pay the outreach workers and the women who collect the garbage in the town. She says her motivations are providing a clean and healthy environment to live in for all of the citizens of Bogandé.
Day 2 was just as jam-packed and beneficial. I had set up a meeting time with the women who collect the garbage in town (charretières) at 7am but unfortunately when I got there and got all ready they were just coming back.
Me ready and enthusiastic to go clean up the town
Apparently since it had rained the women wanted to get the clean up finished early so they could go work in the fields with their families. Making good use of the adaptability I've developed over the past months I headed to the Mayor's office instead and set up a meeting with the Secretary General. This was quite the interesting meeting. I found out about 10 minutes in that he, not Mr Yarga Ali was supposed to be the president of the Technical Committee. The past Secretary General (SG) left his position with the mayor's office in February and Mr Tapsoba Sostène, the new SG, had taken over. The past SG had been the president of the Technical Committee as was stated in the official documents about the forming of the committee. During the transition period for the new SG, Mr Yarga Ali had taken over the position of the Technical Committee, and since Mr Tapsoba Sostène has been working with the commune he has not been passed over the responsibilities of the president.
He wasn't too happy about this at all. He felt excluded from the project, and felt that since he was officially president that no decisions should be made without his consent which is definitely not what has been happening. Power trip or genuine concern for the project?! I'm not sure. He therefore didn't have much information to give me about the project, only that he thinks it is a great initiative and he congratulates and encourages the women. He was however able to give me a lot of information on the functioning of the commune and the different roles of the employees there.
To be able to see both sides of things I talked to Mr Yarga Ali and Mme Lankoandé Clarisse about the SG's participation or lack there of in the Technical Committee. Their view of things was that the SG doesn't participate in meetings even when they invite him. His view on these meetings was that they just invite him there out of formality and that they have already made the necessary decisions. Hmmm I see an avenue where I may be able to be of assistance!!
The afternoon I spent reading up on the commune in documents that the SG had given me about the different roles and competences that each role must have. These were some great documents that will help me evaluate the capacity of the communes and see how I can help reinforce these capacities.
Day 3 I had organized to follow one of the outreach workers in the field. I met up with Lankoandé Aicha and her daughter Lankoandé Wassilatou and we headed out with her bike. She had been provided with a bike for her position but the paths were muddy and bumpy so we walked the bike instead. Our first stop was Mme Lankoandé Judithe's courtyard. (By the way since you haven't noticed, pretty much everybody in Bogandé has the same last name: Lankoandé, it's kind of nice because if simplifies the task of having to remember multiple last names). Aicha uses the SARAR images that she was given by CREPA another NGO that collaboratively works with Helvetas in the Water and Sanitation sector.
Aicha and Waissilatou animating
Her strategy is to show the images (of clean and dirty courtyards) and get the family to explain what they observe and if it is a clean or a dirty courtyard and why. Then she explains the association's work and tries to convince the family to buy a garbage bin for their courtyard. Beginner's luck or just a coincidence... JUDITHE AGREED TO BUY A GARBAGE BIN!!! I was so excited and proud of Aicha and Judithe. It made me so happy to see that the project was actually having an impact on the community. We headed off smiling to our next stop.
Judithe the Hero!!
It wasn't so much a planned route but whoever seemed home we stopped by. Unfortunately the next 3 houses we had less luck. This was good for me as well though to see what kind of barriers were preventing different families from buying garbage bins. Household #2 there was a women home and a bunch of her kids. We did the presentation in french this time since she was a french speaker as opposed to Judithe who only spoke Gulmancéma. The woman seemed very convinced about the benefits of the project and was very enthusiastic but said she couldn't make the decision herself. She lives in a communal courtyard and says she couldn't buy a garbage bin without consulting the others. We tried to explain that she could take the garbage bin just for herself and try to encourage the others to chip in but she said they would just throw their garbage in her bin without paying and this would punish her. Aicha said she would stop by again when there were other members of the courtyard home. Household #3 was a similar problem.
Outreach at household #3
There were tons of people home, about 20 but the head of the family was out working in the fields. The woman of the house said that without his consent she couldn't buy a garbage can even though she was all for the project. Again Aicha said she would come back. Household #4 was a women with lots of kids that were visiting on vacation. She said that she already has a pail that she puts her garbage in and the kids go and dump it to get burned next door. We explained the health concerns of burning garbage and she said that she knows because she works in health care. She says she doesn't have enough money right now because she has to take care of all of the kids that were there on vacation. We offered her the option of just paying for the collection of the garbage in her pail and that she didn't have to pay for a bin but she said to come back after the vacation was over.
Aicha says she normally does about 5 or 6 of these each day but finds it tiring to carry around her daughter on her back all of the time and also says she has problems with her bike. The more I learn about the association and their work the more challenges I discover. She said she will persevere but wonders when the project will start taking care of them financially and in emotional support.
In the afternoon I set up a meeting with the President of the Market, Hanro Diagnouaba Daouda. The market poses one of the greatest problems for the association because it is the messiest area of the commune, and also the merchants are not at all supportive of the project. Big garbage bins were recently built in the market and the president of the market thinks that this will solve all of the problems. I am not so sure.
Here's an awkwardly placed garbage bin that I'm not so sure will get used.
He says that no outreach is needed to encourage people to throw their garbage in the bins that they will simply do it because it is obvious. Really? He also says that the merchants will start to appreciate the women's work and that they will all come together to offer a financial contribution to the association. Again, really? In speaking with the women of the association they hope to organize a meeting with the merchants to sort out some kind of deal and try to educate them on the importance of keeping the town, especially the market, clean.
The next day I continued by meeting with the Secretary General to find out how we can better monitor and evaluate the progress of the project. I also spoke to a merchant on the main drag who has a garbage bin that he bought from the association to find out whether he's satisfied with the women's service or not. He says he's happy because now he doesn't have to deal with disposing the garbage himself. I guess this is better than nothing. I asked him if he was happy with the outreach that the women are providing and he said yes but that the women haven't come by for outreach work in a while because of the rains. Why does everything have to depend on the rain here, it makes things so complicated.
Again more interviews the next day. This time it was with the charretières and then with the secretaries of the association.
The charretières were able to give me the best feedback on the problems of the organization since they're the ones actually cleaning up the garbage!! They too spoke of the challenges of the rainy season, the market's unwillingness to participate, the mockery of the public, and the ripped gloves. They also spoke of their desire to do composting to bring in more money (sell the compost) and reduce the amount of garbage in the final depot. They are very proud of their work though and say that the association/comrades act as a motivator and unites the women. They say they are happy with the money that they are making right now because they know it's only the beginning and that it will get better. They too soldier on.
Here is my meeting with some of the charretières, the president and the treasurer
I spoke with the secretaries about the possibility of creating a reporting system to better measure the progress of the project and better communicate the needs and difficulties of the association to the technical committee and they were all for it. They told me to create a template and that we'd go over it next time I came to visit. This got me really pumped because I think this will really help the women out.
My last day was an exciting hands on experience. I went with the charretières at 6am to the market to help them clean it up nicely for the weekly market that was to happen the next day, Sunday. We emptied different merchant's and restaurant's garbages along the way. Once we got there we found a group of about 25 women already sweeping up and cleaning up the market. No protection, no tools, no nothing. These were the unofficial members of the garbage clean up project who voluntarily get to the market at 4:30 to sweep up the market so that when the charretières get there their task is simplified. WOW. The job was still daunting though. The amount of garbage that collects over a week in a market is crazy. There was everything from chicken feathers and animal bones to cans and fabric. The women got straight to work and picked up their pitchforks and shovels. The president of the association came and offered to find me a chair so I could watch the women work. I laughed politely and picked up my own pitchfork.
I was not there to be an observer. The women were very appreciative of my help and also loved that I wore their green outfit and boots to fit in with the group. Man what a tiring job. There was a mountain of garbage that we spent about 2 hours shoveling and cleaning up and putting into the 2 donkey carts. Then off they went on the 3km walk to the final depot to dump all of the garbage. Unfortunately I had to head out to be able to get to Ouagadougou in time for a big soccer game with my team.
Until next time in Bogandé :)