Women’s Day Event Showcases Lessons From Project Participants, For Project Participants

Group of women gathered for a group photo at the 2024 International Women's Day event in Ouagadougou

Tanager invests considerably in women’s economic and social empowerment to reduce gender-related inequalities and foster sustainable development. In Burkina Faso, for example, Tanager is implementing the Soutenir l’Exploitation Familiales pour Lancer l’Elevage des Volailles et Valoriser l’Economie Rurale (SELEVER 2) project, which is integrating women into the country’s poultry sector. As more project participants have developed into savvy entrepreneurs and knowledgeable poultry producers, Tanager took the occasion of International Women’s Day last month to host a learning event in Ouagadougou on the inclusion and breakthrough of women in market systems.

Women’s empowerment efforts are of particular importance in countries such as Burkina Faso, where gender inequality is high. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap Index—which measures gender parity in terms of economic opportunities, education, health, and political leadership—Burkina Faso ranks 23rd of 36 African countries in gender equity and 109th of 146 countries.

Woman in yellow dress speaking into a microphone at SELEVER 2's international women's day event in Burkina Faso“The inclusion of women in the market is not only a strategic objective for Tanager, but it also provides great learning for other women. We wanted to pilot a day dedicated to spotlighting role models who demonstrate diverse pathways of women’s inclusion into market systems in Burkina Faso,” explained Sita Zougouri, director of gender and social inclusion for SELEVER 2, who organized the event.

Notable Attendee Diversity

The event proved notable for a couple of reasons. First, there was the diversity of attendees: More than 31 women of varying ages, physical abilities, educational levels, languages, and experiences attended. French-speaking implementation partners from Ouagadougou, for example, sat alongside rural community members who spoke regional languages. Interpreters assisted with language barriers, and participatory activities ensured all women engaged with one another.

Attendees also represented a diversity of projects. Participants from the SELEVER 2 project mixed with attendees from Tanager’s Impacting Gender & Nutrition through Innovative Technical Exchange in Agriculture (IGNITE), Carrefour des Opportunités, and the recently closed Cultivons l’Esprit d’entreprise (CLE) projects, all of which have been implemented in Burkina Faso. While the projects have different focus areas—from poultry to institutional capacity-building in gender and nutrition, to entrepreneurship and youth development—all feature this common component of women’s empowerment.

The mix of projects exposed attendees to a full range of experiences. As Gnakote Sere, a participant from the Boucle du Mouhoun Province in western Burkina Faso, noted: “I learned a lot from the other women from the different areas who are fighting well and moving forward. I learned things that I thought were impossible for us women, so this workshop recharged me. I’ve seen what can be done … and I know how to go about it now.”

Inspiration From Panelists

The other notable aspect of the event: the profile of the panelists. All the panelists were project participants, women at different stages of their economic and entrepreneurial journeys who shared expertise derived from their experiences. Five panels—on credit management, poultry production, inclusion of women in the market, diversification of economic activities, and resilience and transformational leadership, respectively—provided attendees with inspiration and information.

A group of women on stage for a panel interview at an international women's day event in Burkina Faso

Take the story of Sita Sanon, a panelist who overcame social barriers in her credit experience with a microfinance institution. “I was going around the city washing people’s clothes to pay for food for my children,” she said. “One day a woman suggested that I go to a microfinance institution to take out a small loan and do an income-generating activity. After some thought, I opened an account at CMBF [a microfinance institution]. I was among the first people to take out a credit with them to the tune of 50,000 XOF (approximately US$82). Today, I have been able to mobilize other women, and we often take out a loan of more than 10 million (approximately US$16,314) with the CMBF for activities.”

The panel discussions showcased the importance of diversifying income sources, the typical challenges entrepreneurs encounter with their new businesses, and strategies for growing one’s customer base.

Making a Place in Burkina’s ‘Economic Fabric’

“These women play an essential role in the market, and in economic and social development,” explained Tanager’s Zougouri. “Their journey is often fragmented with challenges and obstacles, but this event highlighted how they have managed to impose themselves and make a place in the economic fabric in Burkina Faso.”

More importantly, the learning event spurred participants into action.

“I don’t think I have any reason not to fight [for myself] anymore,” reported Bienvenue Ima, a participant from the municipality of Boulsa. “I have heard from women who testify that they make millions from the poultry business. I’m going to get organized and follow in their footsteps.”

Korotimi Damani, meanwhile, immediately sought to increase her flock size after she returned to her home in the municipality of Fara. “I now have more than 150 heads of poultry,” she said, which she had vaccinated. She reported the vaccinations being expensive—but rather than that discouraging her, Damani said it “inspires me wholeheartedly to be trained in order to vaccinate my poultry myself. This meeting opened my mind and gave me courage, the will, and the strength to move forward.”

Group photo at international women's day event in Burkina Faso