COVID-19 and Women’s Livelihoods in Burkina Faso
By Jeannette Bayama Burkina Faso, like most countries, has been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic commonly known as Covid-19, which was brought into the country on March 09, 2020, by an evangelist couple after a trip to France. To date, over 800 positive cases and close to 50 deaths have been reported. The worsening situation compelled the government to take drastic measures on March 20, 2020, to curb the losses of lives and the livelihoods of people. These measures include, among others, the lockdown of all cities with positive cases of COVID-19, the closure of major markets, the confinement of people and, the shutting down of schools and universities. Unfortunately, thousands of people, predominantly women, found themselves without any source of income. Besides, the measures enacted by the government to cushion the adverse effects have proved inadequate and insufficient to uplift the affected communities. Koudougou, a town located 100 kilometers from the capital city, Ouagadougou, in the mid-west, has been hard hit. Although it has registered a few positive case so far, its economy has been severely affected as most cities in the country. Well-known for its mass production of mangoes, Koudougou is also the preferred venue for seminars and workshops. Regrettably, it sits between Ouagadougou and Dédougou, two cities locked down because of the pandemic. As a result, all economic activities were brought to an abrupt halt: seminars and workshops, weekend visitors for cultural events, pubs and nightclubs, everything vanished. We went to meet a group of women, who sell mangoes a few yards away from the National Office for Water and Sanitation (ONEA) to inquire about the progress of their sales in these times of the lockdown. Noéllie YAMEOGGO, one of the vendors, has been selling mangoes for more than two decades. She has no income-generating activity other than the sale of seasonal fruits and tuber (Papaya, Guava, sweet potatoes, yams). Her business collapsed during the lockdown. Her mangoes got rotten for lack of buyers. In a similar vein, Rasmata KAMOUNI has done the same business for over twenty years. When mangoes are out of season, she usually sells condiments such as cabbage, onions, and fresh corn. This year, Rasmata remarked that she has earned only a quarter of the turnover she usually makes every year. Moreover, when the mangoes are ripe at the same time, to avoid unnecessary losses, they are compelled to break down the prices to ensure a quick sale. These two examples point to the challenges most women face across the country. The logical question that springs to mind is the issue of sustainability. What is the best way forward? What should or must the government do to achieve women's self-reliance? The women themselves have suggested the best course of action. They want the government to provide them with training to acquire skills in mangoe processing (in jam, jelly, syrup, dried mangoes, candies, etc.) as a way to secure their income-generating activities for the well-being of their families. Jeannette Bayama holds a Master’s degree in journalism from the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. She is currently working for Caritas Burkina, and actively involved in social work, education, and advocacy. Jeannette is passionate about women empowerment and self-reliance.